Texting while driving is dangerous and never justified. Texting at a red light is a completely different story. PHOTO: Andrew Bossi, CC License
Texting while driving is a serious problem. People have died and killed, just because they couldn’t wait to answer a text. The It Can Wait campaign has done some excellent work to give people pause before they answer a text while driving.
But texting at a red light? Not the same thing. It’s not half as dangerous, and we shouldn’t pretend that it is, the way a recent article in the Huffington Post does:
“Among 18-29-year-old smartphone users, 63 percent said they have texted at a red light. More than 20 percent of distracted drivers age 15 to 19 involved in fatal crashes were distracted by cell phones, according to the NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration].”
The second sentence is something that every driver should know: texting or otherwise distracting yourself while driving leads to deaths. Just because you have done it and you are still alive doesn’t mean you aren’t playing with fire. The first sentence is almost entirely unrelated. How many fatal crashes involve a driver who was stopped at red light? To equate texting at a red light with texting while driving is disingenuous. If there are dangers to texting while stopped at a red light, let’s talk about those. Let’s not just imagine, as the author does, that it is equivalent to driving blind (because you aren't driving!).
The one danger the author does mention is that texting at a red light could lead to getting rear-ended by a bad driver behind you who sees the green light and hits the gas without looking to see if the car in front of them has moved. It is really obnoxious when someone doesn’t move in response to a green light, but dangerous? I don’t buy it.
We live in a world of distractions, and the phone has become a locus of those distractions. Yes, I encourage people to take a brief digital diet when they are driving, or to use your driver privileges to order around your passengers. If you really can’t stand not using your phone for a few minutes, then do the rest of us a favor and wait for a red light. It’s not ideal, but, unlike texting and driving, it’s not lethally dangerous.