Life is busy, I get that. Taking the opportunities to get things done when you get the chance is part of our daily routine. However, chances are being taken that can create major problems that many fail to realize. What am I talking about? Many people are still texting in the vehicle, but not just while in motion, but also texting while stopped at a red light. But is that so bad?
A recent Canadian poll conducted by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) asked over 2000 drivers if they text while stopped. Roughly a third of those polled said they do. The plus side is that roughly two-thirds of those polled say they do not. Whether or not those who said they don’t text while stopped are telling the truth is another story. (Information can be found here https://www.caa.ca/many-canadians-admit-to-texting-at-red-lights-2/?sf51632905=1)
Is it a big deal if you’re stopped at a red light and you check your phone for messages? BIG. Your mind is now taken away from the entire driving environment. You’re distracted. When you look up and see traffic moving, you’ll move instinctively, but it may not be safe to do so. It’s a reaction, not a thought-provoking decision.
Many times over the years I would see traffic stopped at a red light. Traffic in the left turning lane would have an advanced green light and they begin to move while the rest of us have a red light. Suddenly, a driver facing the solid red light begins to move and goes straight through the intersection on a red light. Why? Because they looked up and saw traffic beside them moving. Yes, they were moving, but they had the light that allowed them to make that left turn.
The driver who was distracted with their cell phone looked up and was disorientated with their surroundings. You may have done it yourself. It will generally take a few seconds to get your mind back on track after focusing on something else for a few seconds. Luckily, some of those drivers who went through the red light went through without incident, but that doesn’t always happen. Others aren’t so lucky.
Think of this; you’re the first person in line at a red light in the right lane. You look down to your phone to text or read a text. You look up to see a green light and hit the gas because you feel you’re already late in moving. The only problem is that it wasn’t clear to proceed. A pedestrian or cyclist wasn’t through the crosswalk yet, but you hit the gas. Your mind was on. You jeopardized the safety of other road users.
Checking the phone for messages while stopped still may not seem like a big deal to many drivers, but after getting into the habit of checking while stopped, things can escalate. The next thing they’ll do is check their phone when they’re traveling the speed limit with no one around them, maybe as they drive on a quiet residential street. After that, they’ll begin checking their phone when traffic is near them. It can start small and then grow into major issues. **How distracted driving really affects us can be found HERE.
So why is it so important for some people to check their phones while driving? They often feel like they’re missing out on something. In many jurisdictions using a hand held device while in the driving position is prohibited by the law. A charge can come with a big fine and demerit points. But people still do it. Being stopped at a red light or stop sign is you still being in the driving position. You’re still in control of your motor vehicle – theoretically. Wait until you’re safely parked before checking your messages. Trust me, your messages can wait. Our lives are more important.