Rubbernecking. It's the phenomenon that occurs when people decide to slow down and stare at an accident on the highway. Well, it ruins everyone's day and you need to stop doing it. Now.
This morning I had an early appointment 30 minutes from my apartment in New Jersey. I gave myself an hour to get there, because traffic can be a little crazy. I wasn't too worried though, I was heading west, away from New York City.
I should have worried. It took me two hours and twenty minutes.
Why did it take so long? There was a terrible accident in the east bound lanes of I-280.
Now, I totally understand why there was a huge backup on that side of the highway. The crash looked truly awful, possibly fatal. Cop cars were all over, along with ambulances, accident investigators, and other emergency personnel. Two lanes were closed, so a three lane stretch that eventually leads to the Holland Tunnel was being siphoned down into one lane. That stinks.
So why was there also a seven mile backup on the west bound side of the highway? I sat in it for two hours. There were no accidents. No closed lanes. Nothing that should impede the flow of traffic.
I had my answer after two hours: The flow was impeded by people slowing down to gawk at the accident. There are so many problems with doing that.
First, it delays everyone, as was evidenced by the seven miles of stopped traffic we sat in to get to the area. Second, slowing can cause more accidents. Like in racing when they say 'cautions breed cautions,' repeated stopping brings on rear end collisions, which then leads to more delays. Thirdly, people in traffic are frustrated. That leads to people cutting others off and yelling. Once the scene of the accident is passed, it also causes everyone that was sitting there for hours to rapidly accelerate and speed to try and make up the time they lost.
Guess what that causes? Yup, more accidents and more delays.
There's a part of the human psyche that, for some reason, wants to see twisted metal and carnage. That's why we rubberneck.
What people don't seem to realize is that rubbernecking will breed even more problems than the accident itself. Unless there is a way for you to stop and help the people in the crash, keep moving. You're only creating more problems down the road. Literally.
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