Is NJ guilty of making rubbernecking an art?
Does New Jersey have more of a morbid curiosity than other states? Maybe they're there, but I couldn't find stats on this in a cursory Google exam. But take a look at the anecdotal evidence.
When Gov. Christie told people to "get the hell off the beach" in the hours before Hurricane Irene hit, you know a lot of those folks had to be the type to just want to be near the action, see the ocean build up its fury, etc. Thirty-seven hours later with just shy of hurricane-force winds, Irene made landfall at Little Egg Inlet. There was no reason to be lingering with all the advance warnings.
Then there was the even more obvious gawking that happened when disaster tourists showed up in the days after Sandy in New Jersey and New York. As homeowner Joanne McClenin said afterwards, "The gawking was amazing last week. It was kind of offensive as a homeowner because I felt violated."
Her home was filled with five feet of water the night it hit. I’d feel violated too seeing people driving around barriers in my devastated town and realizing they weren’t there to help me clean up but only to look.
Recently Westfield residents grew agitated that a Netflix series based on The Watcher house was drawing fans of the series to show up on Boulevard and become real-life watchers, sitting there gawking at the house that received the creepy anonymous letters in 2014.
Traffic accidents are the most common example of gawking. Rubbernecking delays can raise New Jersey commuters' blood pressure as much as left lane-blocking idiots. It happens daily.
Yet it’s a bit of an illusion. I once read the science behind how rubbernecking delays develop and it’s all simple math. Once an accident occurs, all that has to happen for a major rubbernecking delay to ensue is for the lead passers-by to just take their foot off the gas to have a little look.
It was explained this way. Unlike a military march where a group is being led by an instructor counting off, in traffic you’re on your own to go as fast or slightly slower than the car in front of you, never slightly faster, so that you don’t rear end anyone. We’re not synchronized like a military march.
So when that lead car slows by only 1/2 a mile an hour from 65 to 64 1/2, car number two slows to 64, car number three slows to 63 1/2, car number four to 63, car number five to 62 1/2, and so on. It’s simple crash avoidance and quickly results a hundred cars later with traffic moving at a crawl. All because those initial drivers decided to very slightly slow down to look.
The key here is to maintain your speed if not actually slightly speed UP when you see something on the side of the road. Keep things moving! Don’t give in to your base urge to hope to see carnage! It’s possibly somebody’s worse day of their life and just be glad you weren’t involved.
But people like drama. New Jersey people are no different. Maybe even worse.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.
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