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What Are the Dangers of Using a Phone at a Red Light?

Published on Apr 8, 2022 at 7:05 am in Car Accident.
What Are the Dangers of Using a Phone at a Red Light?

There are few things that feel worse than being stuck in traffic or at a long red light. Some Lexington drivers deal with this by reaching for their phones. This type of behind-the-wheel phone use might feel safer than texting and driving, but that does not mean that it is actually safe.

Using a phone at a red light is dangerous. Texting, calling, or scrolling through social media even while stopped are still forms of distracted driving. As you probably already know, distracted driving is a leading cause of serious and even fatal car accidents in the United States.

Kentucky Distracted Driving Laws

Since 2010, all Kentucky drivers have been banned from texting and driving while their vehicle is in motion. Drivers aged 18 and up are allowed to use GPS devices, and can also enter or select a phone number to make a call. There are exceptions to the ban on texting for drivers who are 18 and older, though:

  • To report illegal activity
  • To summon medical help or law enforcement
  • To prevent injury

Drivers who are younger than 18 years of age cannot use any type of communication device behind the wheel, including phones. There is an exception for GPS devices, but minors can only enter travel information when the vehicle is at a complete stop. Additionally, younger drivers can also use their phones in the event of an emergency to summon help, such as law enforcement or medical help.

Distracted driving laws that target younger drivers are especially important. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 are much more likely to be distracted than drivers over the age of 20.

Phones at Red Lights

According to a survey from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 44% of drivers who text while driving wait for red lights or stop signs to do so.

This is not necessarily against Kentucky’s distracted driving laws. Again, drivers are only prohibited from using their phones for writing, sending, or reading text messages when their vehicles are in motion.

However, driving is a task that requires all of your attention, even when stopped. A driver who is stopped at a red light and looking at their phone may not notice when traffic around them starts to move. Even worse, they may misinterpret the slight movement of the leading car inching forward as an indication that traffic is flowing again and cause a rear-end collision.

Many drivers believe they can quickly switch between driving, texting at a red light, and back to driving again. Research shows this is not the case. Using a phone while driving “reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%.” This means even if you set your phone back and resume driving, your focus will not be fully there.

Additionally, many drivers who pick up a phone at a stop light are more likely to continue using it even after the light turns green and the flow of traffic resumes. In this way, using your phone while stopped is like a gateway behavior to even more dangerous driving habits.

Types of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving can be broken down into three different types. These are:

  • Manual – A manual distraction is anything that requires you to take your hands off the steering wheel. Texting, reaching for items, or holding a cup of coffee all count as manual distractions.
  • Visual – These are activities that take your eyes off the road. Looking at your phone screen, an accident, or passengers are all visual distractions.
  • Cognitive – A cognitive distraction is when your thoughts are occupied with something other than driving. This could be work or even your grocery list. It is a lot harder to spot a driver who is cognitively distracted than one who is manually or visually distracted.

Part of what makes texting and driving so dangerous is that it combines all three types of distracted driving. It is not just texting, either. Any type of phone use while driving is unsafe. This includes things like:

  • Making Phone Calls
  • Using Social Media
  • Taking Photos or Videos
  • Entering GPS Data
  • Starting or Stopping Music
  • Playing Phone Games

Some drivers try to limit the impact of distracted driving by using hands-free devices. While this is a great way to keep your hands on the wheel, it is not necessarily the solution that many people think it is. Using a hands-free device has been shown to slow drivers’ reaction times so severely that it is on par with someone who has a blood alcohol concentration of .08, the legal limit for driving.

Distracted driving has been around for much longer than phones, though. Actions that you think of as normal behind the wheel can actually be quite dangerous. Adjusting the temperature, changing the radio station, or even talking with passengers are all types of distractions.

Pets in particular can be very distracting to drivers. When driving with pets, always keep them safely secured in a kennel, behind a gate, or with a harness. Try giving your pet a fun toy to keep them occupied, and take regular bathroom breaks for your pet to stretch their legs when traveling long distances.

Ideally, drivers should focus on the task at hand by keeping their hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and head in the game.

Distracted Accident Statistics

There is no doubt that distracted driving is a problem that threatens the safety of everyone on the road. According to the CDC, distracted drivers kill around 8 people a day. In 2018 alone there were 2,841 distracted driving deaths, and another 36,560 injuries. In 2019, distracted drivers killed another 3,142 people.

While anyone of any age can engage in dangerous driving behaviors that harm other people, one age group is disproportionately represented in fatal distracted driving accidents. Drivers between the ages of 20 and 25 are responsible for 25% of all fatal car crashes involving distracted driving.

We take examples of distracted driving like texting at a red light very seriously at the Law Office of Todd W. Burris. If you need support when filing a personal injury claim after your own distracted driving accident, you have come to the right place. When you contact us for your free consultation, one of our Lexington car accident lawyers will make sure you understand all your options for recovering compensation.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice. Viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Prior case results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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