Phones, red lights don't mix

Published 7:22 am Monday, February 19, 2007

By Staff
I have been guilty, and I bet if you own a cell phone, you have been guilty one or two times as well.
I use my cell phone while I'm driving on occasion. I mean, seriously, if I were at the office or at home, I wouldn't need a cell phone. So many times, driving to or from work is the only time I have alone to think about things I need to take care of throughout the course of the day.
I have also been guilty of &#8220almost” running a red light. By that I mean that I'm sitting under a green light wanting to make a turn across a lane filled with on-coming traffic. Under the assumption that the light will soon change from green to yellow, I ease up hoping that I will get an opportunity to squeeze through a gap and make it to my destination without being caught by the red light. I ease up, hoping, hoping, hoping to make it through before the light turns red. I've seen other people do it and continue to ease up even after the light has turned yellow and quickly dash across an intersection just as or just after the light changes to red.
However, this column is meant to bring attention to the growing problem of the use of cell phones while driving and &#8220almost” running a red light.
Last Thursday, just after noon in downtown Brewton, I could have been in an awful accident if I hadn't been paying attention to what was going on around me.
There I was, minding my own business. I was anxious to get back to work, but of course, I got caught by a red light at the intersection of Mildred Street and St. Joseph Avenue downtown (near the Ritz communication center). I was headed to St. Nicholas Avenue and back to the newspaper office. As I sat there, a delivery van wanted to turn north onto Mildred Street from St. Joseph. No problem. He did what a hundred people do a day - he eased up on the green, then yellow light to be prepared to make a quick &#8220pre-red light” turn. I didn't have a problem with that. And from what I could tell, he did just fine. He made it just before the light turned red on his side.
I believe this to be true is because the light was still red for me. However, here's where the whole rub comes in.
Behind the delivery van was a black pick-up truck. It was a pretty truck and I got a really close look at it because it turned right in front of me as my light turned green.
He was bumper to bumper with the delivery truck, and I can only assume he figured he'd go right behind him and there wouldn't be a problem.
The light for me to go had turned green before his vehicle ever entered the intersection so I know, without any doubt, he ran a red light. Well, it happens. People run red lights all the time. It is dangerous and there are even cities along the gulf coast that have installed cameras to catch those who run red lights. Smile for the camera; get a ticket in the mail. I'm not against that at all.
What really got me was this man was oblivious to what was going on around him. He ran the red light and did so while holding a cell phone to his ear.
I did make a few gestures toward him - not the kind you're thinking. I pointed to the traffic light and held my hands up in wonder. He didn't even notice me.
After he made it through the intersection, and I began to make my way across the tracks, I thought to look back and get his tag number. I got it.
At one point, I thought I would turn around and follow him and start shouting &#8220citizens arrest” out my window like Goober would have done. I also considered using my cell phone and calling the police to report the crime, but I thought better of that. Then I decided to give the guy a break.
I've done a lot of stupid things in my driving life, but I don't think I've ever been unaware of my surroundings so completely as to run a red light and not even notice.
I vow, today, that I will be more careful in using my cell phone while in a vehicle. I also vow not to ease up on intersection as the light changes from green to yellow. Who knows, the guy in the black truck could be coming the other way.
Lisa Tindell is a news writer for The Brewton Standard. She may be reached at 867-4876 or by email at

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