We’ve all seen traffic on I-70 slow to a crawl around the flashing lights of a police car.

Part of this slowdown can be attributed to giving law enforcement a safe work environment. However, there’s another reason traffic comes to a standstill and it’s responsible for one in every ten accidents.

A downplayed risk

Slowing down to gawk at a traffic citation or accident on the road can put you in danger. The Centers for Disease Control say that around 25% of all car accidents are a result of a distracted driver. While many of us immediately associate distraction with our phones (and with good reason), rubbernecking is another major form of distraction.

Rubbernecking means taking your eyes off the road to sneak a peek at an accident or traffic stop in progress and is a risk. Consider that you are not the only one doing so, and it’s easy to see why so many crashes are secondary accidents. A few seconds of not watching the road means you can miss a car suddenly braking or veering into your lane.

In fact, research shows that rubbernecking alone may be responsible for 10 to 16 percent of all car accidents. The accident caused by rubbernecking is frequently more severe than whatever caused the drivers to take their eyes off the road.

Resisting rubbernecking

While it’s human nature to want to look at a scene on the side of the road, it’s crucial to resist that urge. First responders in some major cities are beginning to erect large barriers around a traffic scene to prevent other drivers from rubbernecking.

However, you can reduce the risk by simply remaining focused on the task at hand—driving. Keeping your eyes fixed on the road and not whatever is happening on the shoulder will help you react to other drivers who cannot help themselves. It can allow you the chance to avoid a major incident.

Know your rights

If you’re involved in an accident because another driver stopped watching the road, you have options. A skilled attorney can help you fight to cover the damages and any injury costs.

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