While there are many ways people behind the wheel divert their eyes from the road—such as texting, grooming, eating, or tending to kids in the backseat—many of us don’t realize that rubbernecking is also a form of distracted driving. Although not illegal in Missouri, it might be considered negligent behavior, especially if you were injured in a collision as a result.

If you think another driver’s rubbernecking caused the incident, consult an experienced car accident attorney in Kansas City right away to learn more about the other driver’s potential liability and how that impacts your claim. 

What Is Rubbernecking? 

The general definition of rubbernecking, according to Oxford Languages, is to turn your head to stare foolishly at something. By nature, people are curious, so we often can’t help but slow down and look at an accident or some other incident on the side of the road. Maybe we’re concerned, too, if we see emergency personnel rushing toward something. Or perhaps we’re simply astounded by something we notice in nature and can’t help but take it all in as we’re cruising past. 

While rubbernecking might seem like an innocent act, it’s still risky distracting behavior, as taking your eyes off the road and engaging with something else can cause you or someone else to be seriously hurt in a car accident. The Centers for Disease Control indicates there are three types of distraction: 

  • Cognitive: when your mind isn’t on your driving
  • Manual: such as when you take your hands off the wheel to text 
  • Visual: averting your eyes from the road onto something else

The CDC also notes that on average each year, 3,000 people die in distracted driving crashes.  

How to Stop Rubbernecking

Just as you rely on defensive driving techniques to keep you and other motorists safe on the road, there are also some tactics to help you avoid rubbernecking: 

  • Be mindful of keeping your eyes on the road at all times while driving. If you must snap a photo of a beautiful landscape, find a safe place to pull over and stop.
  • If you’re approaching an accident scene, recognize there’s a flurry of activity from emergency personnel trying to manage the situation safely. Reduce your speed, turn on your flashers, and simply ease away from the area, resisting the urge to stare at what’s going on. 

When bad driving behaviors like rubbernecking cause a car accident, it can be a scary situation—and when a severe injury is a result, it often causes even more consequences, including financial hardship. While rubbernecking is challenging to prove, a skilled attorney will know how to investigate your claim and find all the right evidence.

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