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What is Digi-Necking?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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Digi-necking is rubbernecking for the digital age; instead of just slowing down to look at an accident, rubberneckers today can photograph it with a digital camera, cellphone, or another device, thereby having a memory to take along with them. Just like rubbernecking, digi-necking can be very dangerous, and it is also considered rude in some regions of the world. Traffic engineers in particular are concerned with this evolution in the time-honored practice of rubbernecking, because it can lead to problems with the flow of traffic around an accident.

Rubbernecking, of course, is a phenomenon in which passersby and bystanders gawk at the scene of an accident. For first responders, rubbernecking can be potentially dangerous and irritating, because it interferes with their ability to handle and secure the scene. Rubbernecking can also lead to accidents, because a rubbernecker might be so distracted by a gory scene that he or she doesn't notice the car in front has stopped, slowed, or changed position in the road.

When people engage in digi-necking, they whip out a camera to photograph the scene of the accident. While the desire to photograph the scene out of morbid interest might be desirable, the time it takes to set up the frame and take photographs can make digi-necking more dangerous than rubbernecking, and it can also slow the flow of traffic around the accident.

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One could argue that digi-necking could potentially be useful, because the photographs could be used by battling insurance companies. However, when first responders arrive on scene, police officers often arrive as well, and they take extensive photographs to document the scene; these photographs are far more likely to be useful than snapshots taken by people who don't know how to photograph accident scenes well. For the victims of an accident, digi-necking can also be offensive or embarrassing, especially if the photographs later end up on the Internet.

Several studies carried out by traffic engineers and psychologists have shown that stopping to rubberneck can be dangerous. Lingering at the scene of an accident can slow the response time of the brain to external stimuli, which can pose a threat if conditions on the road change suddenly, and it also interferes with the goal of clearing the road as quickly as possible so that it can return to normal function. The best thing to do when one approaches an accident is to slow down and follow the directions of emergency services personnel, not to embark on a career as an amateur accident photographer.

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