Dear Car Talk:
I seem to be missing something lately that I can’t figure out! There appears to be an epidemic of drivers who, when stopped at stoplights, insist on leaving one, two and sometimes even three car lengths between themselves and the car in front of them! It is not just old folks like myself, either. Is there some benefit to their cars that people believe in, that I have never heard of? I don’t know of any! — Jim
Since you’re an old guy, I’ll fill you in on what these people are doing, Jim: They’re texting.
Most people under 60 years of age these days, given a fraction of a second of free time, will reach for their phones. And if they discover that no one has tried to reach them, they’ll try to reach someone else. If that fails, they’ll start checking Facebook. Or Tinder.
It’s like in the old days, when you used to walk out to your mailbox during the day to see if the postman had come yet. But it’s like doing that 500 times a day.
So when they find themselves with 20 or 30 seconds (i.e., an eternity) at a red light, people can’t resist the urge to engage with other humans on their smartphones. And while they’re engrossed in answering a probing question like “Where r u?” (“I’m two blocks from the last place I texted you”), they don’t notice that the car ahead of them moves up a few car lengths.