'Red light texters' disrupting traffic flow

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"Eyes down, not watching traffic," says a Lafayette police officer as he watches cars at a downtown intersection.

Texting while stopped at the red light is perfectly legal. "Almost 25% of the people at a stop light are going to be on the cell phone or texting," says Dr. Fred Mannering, a traffic expert at Purdue University.

That 25 percent is up from Purdue's last study.

"They think that it's safe because they're stopped," says Mannering. But red light texters may be sparking problems, including road rage.

"Just like that," says Will Carpenter, a Lafayette police officer, as he's interrupted by a car horn honking at a busy intersection.

"It's the person honking the horn that's backed up in the queue, that's angering other people. It's people becoming more aggressive as they enter that intersection or approach the light."

"I see people doing that," said one driver. Hold her up? "Yeah, yeah."

Because the texter didn't see the light turn green, he delayed everyone behind them. What's worse, "if you text," says Mannering, "and if the gap between vehicles gets greater than 2-and-a-half to three seconds, the detectors (in the pavement) will shut off the green to that signal."

So fewer people get through the light. Carpenter said he's seeing more accidents involving drivers frustrated with other drivers.

And there's another problem. The texter at the traffic light may zoom off suddenly when they catch motion in their peripheral vision.

"They see traffic around them go so they just go without even paying attention and I see so many rear-end crashes that way."

More cities are experimenting with new technology to move more traffic faster. But the cheapest technology may be using no tech while driving.

"You shouldn't text," Mannering says. "Whatever you're texting or calling, it can wait."