It's clear that a lot of Canadians know what they're doing is wrong - the CAA says 70 percent of respondents believe using their phone at a red light is "unacceptable."

It's the lesser of evils as far as many drivers are concerned - instead of texting while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, the act is done while idling at a red light. According to the Canadian Automobile Association though, it's an evil nonetheless, and a recent poll shows that up to a third of drivers are taking part in the dangerous habit.

The poll asked 2,012 drivers if they've texted behind the wheel at a red light in the past month, and 33 percent of respondents said they had. While it's tempting to believe that texting while at a red light has very few consequences, the CAA points to a study done by Washington, D.C.-based AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that says otherwise.

Whether it's writing and sending out a text, making a music choice on a car's entertainment system, or something else, the brain still focuses on a task after it's seemingly completed.

The most telling stat in the foundation's study, which measured cognitive functions of drivers, is the one that says distraction can last for up to 27 seconds after a task is completed. Whether it's writing and sending out a text, making a music choice on a car's entertainment system, or something else, the brain still focuses on a task after it's seemingly completed.

"The effect of texting at a red light lingers well after the light turns green, making it a dangerous driving habit," said Jeff Walker, vice-president of public affairs for CAA National.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study ranked the "cognitive workload" of specific in-car tasks from a scale of 1-5. In other words, it ranked just how distracting certain tasks were while driving. It went so far as to focus on specific manufacturer infotainment systems, ranking them based on how easy or difficult they were to operate.

A "1" would simply be driving, without any interaction with a vehicles' infotainment. A "5," meanwhile, would be akin doing "mentally challenging math and memory tasks." The results showed the system in the Chevrolet Equinox resulted in the least amount of distraction (2.37) while the Mazda6 ended up with the most (4.57).

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It's clear that a lot of Canadians know what they're doing is wrong - the CAA says 70 percent of respondents believe using their phone at a red light is "unacceptable." The new technology in cars these days may be difficult to learn, but it can help. If it's available, use your vehicle's hands-free features as much as possible so that you always have two hands on the wheel. Set maps and music channels before hitting the open road, and don't groom yourself - you look great, we promise!

And don't trick yourself into thinking sending that text at a red light is totally okay.

Source: CAA, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

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