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What’s so dangerous about texting at a stop light?

On Behalf of | Jun 18, 2023 | Car Accidents

Most drivers in New Jersey understand that texting at the wheel is against the law and also a dangerous choice. However, it is very common for individuals to think that they have a hack or workaround that allows them to safely engage in behavior that they recognize as dangerous.

People often use hands-free software to dictate or listen to messages, a decision that doesn’t take into account the cognitive distraction of continuing a conversation at the wheel. Others try to find a way to manually text in a safer manner. One of the most common so-called safety hacks involves a driver only handling their phone to read or respond to a text message at an intersection or a red light. If they hear a ping or the phone starts vibrating, they will check it when they have to stop. However, what seems like a clever workaround could actually cause major problems for a driver.

State law does not offer an exemption for pauses in traffic

In New Jersey, manually handling a phone, including to read or send a text message, is a traffic infraction. Drivers can get pulled over and ticketed for texting while stopped at an intersection, as the state law does not specifically exempt intersections from enforcement of this rule.

This kind of distraction lasts longer than people realize

People operate under the assumption that they can fire off a text or a short email at a red light and then continue to move with the flow of traffic as though nothing happened. Research into how the brain responds to mobile phone use shows that that is not realistic expectation.

People’s brains remain distracted for approximately 27 seconds after they put the phone down and stop looking at it. Someone could travel half a mile on a road with a higher speed limit before they begin to fully focus on their surroundings again. Given that a significant portion of collisions occurred intersections, being distracted while proceeding through one could be a serious safety issue.

Rejecting workarounds and hacks that open one up to citations and crash risk can help New Jersey drivers stay safer at the wheel.