We Can’t Help Rubbernecking

Larry Price
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Wednesday - May 25, 2011
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Complaining is probably one of our favorite pastimes. It doesn’t matter if someone has a legitimate reason for complaining, it just comes naturally when things don’t go the way you would like.

There are a lot of people who are experts at complaining.

They can find something wrong with a proposal or even an innocent suggestion. Its almost an automatic reflex.

It’s not against the law and doesn’t inconvenience anyone.

Sometimes it’s even funny.

Take the road crew that was touching up Komo Mai Drive last week. In their haste, they misspelled a word on the newly paved road - “SHCOOL” - bringing to mind the crew that placed a sign on the H-3 freeway facing the wrong direction.


Many people didn’t notice the misspelling, but for the few that did, it opened a floodgate of complaints. The calls ranged from blaming the public education system to lazy public unions members. Some thought the guilty workers should be suspended, transferred to hard labor or fired.

Just about anyone who deals with the public will understand that there is a lot of frustration driving around on any given day. It’s so rampant that the City & County has an Office of Complaint.

Something I’ve heard people complaining about lately is “rubbernecking.”

Rubbernecking has probably been going on since Henry Ford mass produceded the automobile - and probably before that in horse-and-buggy days.

Our wonderment for accidents and incidents leads to unsophisticated gawking. We can’t help looking at another person’s misfortune, even if it can be hazardous to your own health and to others’.

It’s curiosity gone wild.

It would seem that every time a motorist sees a flashing blue light their instinctive behavior is to slow down to see what’s going on.

Of course, that usually causes the traffic to back up and tempers to flare. Most people don’t know why they are slowing down, it’s an involuntary response to the flashing blue light. The same thing happens when motorists see a flashing red light. So it might be safe to say, any flashing light regardless of color will cause folks to start rubbernecking.


Sadly, any bad accident, especially one where there is a serious injury or a fatality, will slow the traffic to a standstill.

Is there a possibility that motorists enjoy bad accidents? No, that’s illogical. We can’t do away with the flashing blue lights because it means slow down. It doesn’t mean stop. Red lights mean stop, look and listen. Yellow light means caution, you are approaching a hazardous situation. Some people think it would help if the higher partitions between the lanes on the freeways would discourage rubber-necking. Could be, however, others think it would raise the curiosity level even higher.

Rubbernecking is a serious complaint and worthy of investigation, because a flashing blue light means slow and doesn’t mean keep going the same speed.

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