Cell Phone Etiquette (Red Light Edition)

Great minds think alike.

Alert “06880” reader Scott Smith sent this story idea along. But I’ve thought of it often. So, I’m sure, have you. 

Scott says:

Like most alert “06880” followers, I’ve enjoyed your postings about sloppy or selfish parking jobs.

And like any modern motorist, I’m aware of the dangers of distracted driving. I try to keep my best to keep my cell phone in my pocket when I’m on the road.

But I haven’t noticed any attention paid to a peeve that’s getting worse: The habit of some drivers to wait until they’re at a light to check their phone.

I’m sort of fine with that — except when the light turns green, and the driver in the car ahead of me still has his or her head down.

Cell phone use at traffic light

The car in front of theirs moves — but they don’t. The worst is when you’re in a quick left-hand turn lane. The driver in front of me usually notices the green arrow just in time to speed up and be the last car through.

This strikes me as a frustrating and growing trend. I wonder what the policy to counter such behavior should be. Do we give the cell phone driver a light tap on the horn?

Or do we just accept that traffic lights are a moment in time when you check your texts (or Google Map or Mapquest) for directions?

Either way, it’s driving me crazy.

“06880” readers: What’s the solution? Be creative — but not profane. Click “Comments” below to weigh in on this First World problem.

22 responses to “Cell Phone Etiquette (Red Light Edition)

  1. I’ve been thinking of getting one of these large bumper attachments (as some urban police cars have) so I can just push these people thru the intersection.

  2. That’s what horns and when necessary middle fingers are for…

  3. Laurie Goldberg

    I am not even sure it’s always about the cell phone. It feels like there is no such thing as mindful or undistracted driving. I feel no compunction about tapping (not leaning on) my horn, but then I almost always seem to get an annoyed response. People, please, wake up!

  4. Susan Iseman

    When I see a distracted driver I honk my horn. Call it rude, but it alerts the driver and sometimes they actually refocus their attention to the road, not their handheld device. Maybe I’ll get arrested for making noise, but it might just save a life.

  5. Karen Wambach

    Ditto…I can’t tell you how many times in the past 6 months that I have honked my horn in Westport, it’s something I rarely did before….and it’s not just drivers sitting at green lights, it’s also drivers on the wrong side of the road as they approach me….AND while I’m at it….what about drivers who just blow through STOP signs?

    • Susan Iseman

      What’s really frustrating is when these infractions occur while there’s a traffic officer present and they do NOTHING.

  6. Jacque O'Brien

    A friend was ticketed for picking up/checking her cell phone at a stop light. She was told it is considered using it and is illegal.

  7. Horn is the only answer and it’s happening all over the country — where we live as well. Happened to me the other day — sitting behind a guy in rush hour waiting to merge onto major highway and he’s sitting on entrance ramp, dead stop texting — he got the horn no question. Unsafe. What seems to be more unique to Westport is blown stop signs, however. Scary. Cops could bring in their traffic violation quotas for the quarter sitting at stop signs seems to me.

  8. Bobbie Herman

    On the other hand, I can’t count the number of times I’ve stopped at a red light, and the second it changes the driver behind me blasts his/her horn.

  9. A light tap on the bumper…but prob not a good idea. Tempting, though 🙂

  10. Jill Nash von Schmidt

    In Vegas it’s considered distracted driving when you check your phone at a red light, and they’ll ticket you for it. Hard to enforce though…

  11. Wendy Cusick

    In CT you will ticketed for illegal use of hand held device. I’ve beeb tapping the horn myself a lot more lately. I like the idea of the bumper attachment or drive a tank to gently push them across to their designation. Oh wait a minute…how about this…Air Horn! Hehehe That would be a wake up call. Pay Attention People!

  12. Nancy Powers Conklin

    That drives me crazy too! I am always the one who misses the light because the person in front of me is reading their cell phone!! Such frustration! I am not at all reluctant to blow the horn.

  13. Nancy McCirmick

    I don’t usually bother to comment but I have to say – we all just need to slow it down. If you don’t make it through this light there’s another in under…um…3 minutes. If you’re in that much of a hurry, leave a couple of minutes sooner. Yes it can be annoying if the car in front doesn’t jump at the light change – but in the grand scheme of things it’s not a big deal. Relax, Westport!

  14. Jonas Shapiro

    I was sitting behind a car at the intersection of Roseville and North Avenue a few months ago. The road was clear and and driver in front of me had not made a left turn for at least 2 minutes and this was after I honked about 3 times. Concerned that the driver might be having a medical issue I got out of my car to find her typing away on her phone completely oblivious to her surroundings.

    • You must have been in the Twilight Zone 😊 because Roseville & North don’t intersect in Westport.

  15. Claire Zielinski

    You can also get a ticket while doing that

    Sent from my iPhone


  16. Marcy Anson Fralick Staples '70

    Arizona is one of the few states that has no laws on the books regarding cell phones and driving. It’s awful. I see people of all ages, especially moms with kids in the car, and teens texting on their cell phones while driving, and swerving all over the roads. Most of our streets are 45-50 mph so texting and driving are deadly. We’ve had many fatal accidents caused by young people who are texting and driving. If you’ve got a car full of teens, let someone other than the driver do the texting. If you’re a mom going between school, soccer practice, the orthodontist, etc., with kids in the car, sync your phone to your car and go hands-free or wait until you’re at your destination to respond to a text. It definitely wouldn’t kill you to just slow down and wait to return that text, but on the other hand, it definitely could kill you to text and drive.

  17. Wendy Cusick

    Just to be clear I’m a patience person….but when you sitting a a light that 6 to 10 cars make it through and ONLY 3 or 4 make it. You know someone is NOT paying attention.

  18. I do understand the frustration and the legalities and even the temptation to playfully ‘bump’ those who are just not paying enough attention. What needs to be remembered though is often YOU the driver behind may not be able to see what that waiting driver sees in front of him/her (unless you are in an enormous SUV which towers over the other cars, than they can’t see around you either). I also would hesitate to blast the person in front of you with that trusty horn; sometimes the startle response of someone laying on their horn causes even more issues and accidents that the driver that wasn’t staring fixedly at the traffic light, ready to make a break for it. Tap the horn lightly to get attention, it may work better than having someone shoot forward without looking up carefully.

    • Jerry MacDaid

      Maybe, but my money is on they aren’t paying attention, probably due to cell phone usage of some sort.