Distracted driving a mortal sin?

Is texting, changing the song on an IPod, or other distractions while driving gravely sinful? What about if these things are done while moving very slowly in traffic or coming to a stop at a red light? Would that lessen the gravity to a venial sin since most likely nobody’s life would be seriously endangered?

The fact remains that you put everyones life in danger when you do it - are people fools - do they not see this? Why would you continue when so many have died from doing this. Some people need to learn the hard lesson I guess and hurt themselves or worse hurt others and hopefully go to jail. Do you want the deaths or injuries of others on your concience or to wake up in the hospital with serious injuries. The answer is quite obvious.I suspect it could be a mortal sin if others are killed when you had full knowledge that is is stupid and dangerous and still continued to do it.

I’m not advocating it. I’m only wondering about its gravity.

If you can not do these things well, then certainly don’t do them. Put no, changing the song on your ipod while driving is not sinful. I am not saying not mortally sinful, I’m saying not sinful. Anyone who says it is, better not give their wife a loving glance while driving either. Heck, maybe you shouldn’t even check your speedometer or rear-view mirror.

I’m not saying you should be organizing new playlists, and I’m not condoning texting while driving, again unless it is done in very safe conditions (e.g. Talk to text, at redlights, etc.), but there are plenty of people who can handle these quick tasks in no more time or level of distractedness than it takes to check your gas gauge. If you can’t do it, don’t do it, but don’t condemn all other people either.

In other words, is it a mortal sin to deliberately endanger people’s lives – including your own – for something completely unimportant that can certainly wait until later?

To me this is akin to when people insist that poker is gambling (strictly a game of chance). Poker players however see it as a skill game. And they’re right. There’s a reason the same people continually make it to the World Series of Poker every year, and it’s not because they are the luckiest people in the world. However, people who are not good at poker, who do not have that skill, often remain adamant that it is gambling.

Similarly, to assume that everyone who changes a song on their iPod or sends a quick text, is “endangering people’s lives” is the same as saying every poker player is “risking his family’s well being”. You are saying that because you don’t have those skills, you assume nobody else does either. But just because you can’t do something without doing it poorly, doesn’t mean than no one should be allowed to do it. If you can’t drink without getting drunk, don’t outlaw liquor, don’t drink. If you aren’t skilled at poker, don’t outlaw poker, don’t play. If you can’t handle an iPod while driving, don’t outlaw it, don’t do it yourself.

And yes, there are I’m sure accidents from people changing their iPod, just like there are people who lose their grocery money playing poker. And in both those cases, it is sinful, because they obviously don’t have the skill to do it responsibly, safely, and without risk. So for those people, it is sinful, and they shouldn’t do it. But to therefore say everyone who works an iPod while driving is an evil person risking the lives of others, is as stupid as saying professional poker players are sinning for being so reckless as to gamble.

No, it’s a mobile sin.

Well, the problem with that is that most people don’t appear to know that they aren’t skillful enough to do it. Since nobody actually needs to do either thing while actively driving (i.e. not stopped at a stoplight), it is better that nobody do them. (I’m assuming when talking about changing the song on the iPod, we’re not just talking about moving to the next song, but actually selecting a song from the menu. Just moving to the next song only takes one touch, and really is not enough distraction to worry about.)

It’s not like poker, where you get feedback every time you play. The only feedback you get when you are texting and driving and you aren’t good at it, is when you drive so abysmally that people honk at you or you hit something. That isn’t good enough.

And believe me, when you are texting and driving badly, people may well not honk at you unless it’s really urgent. I don’t feel comfortable honking at someone who is so distracted because the jerk they give when they “come to” might be just the jerk that causes them to sideswipe me or someone else.

Plus there is the “do as I say, not as I do” aspect to adults texting and driving. Teens do NOT have enough driving experience to text and drive, but it’s harder to stop them doing it if adults are doing it around them. Teens (as I recall from my experience of being a teen), do not know how good or bad they are at driving, and have not had time to build up the necessary reflexes that they can drive properly with distractions. I freely admit that there are quite a few adults who don’t know that they drive badly either, but they’ve usually had some hints in the way of fender-benders.

And when I’m talking about texting, I am talking about ordinary texting. I don’t have any experience with talk-to text, but I would imagine it is probably safe.

So for anyone tho feels that they are skilled enough to text and drive, I offer this example, not as some sort of rule, but as an act of charity toward the less skilled:

[quote=1 Cor 8:7-13]However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through being hitherto accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol’s temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.

But to the OP, I’d say if it were a pretty short period of distraction (e.g. texting “OK”), not a mortal sin, but veering toward mortal the longer it takes. It’s probably best to take specifics of the situation to your parish priest.


Well where I live it is against the law to text while driving. I don’t even think it is allowed while stopped at a light, but cops don’t enforce it that strictly. Cell phone use is also restricted. Drivers are required to use an earbud instead of holding the phone to their ear, and they can only have one ear covered. It would be a sin to break the law.

I do not believe it to be a mortal sin. However, I’m sure there is some level that it becomes truly reckless, akin to drunk driving, and then you can discuss the matter more. However, I do not think we can unilaterally declare any of those acts as mortal sin. I mean, someone may consider talking on the phone to be dangerous because New York (and then other states) said so, and have thus made it illegal, but that doesn’t make it sinful, does it? And if that basis does, how would you explain the states where it is not illegal?

To me, the whole heart of the matter is at what point risk becomes grave matter. Is it a higher risk to go sky diving or text at a red light? What about on an empty road? Does the fact that it is an emergency affect whether the action is reckless or not? These are matters that I have not thought about, nor am I very certain what the Church teaches (presuming, of course, the teaching relates broadly to reckless behavior and is not specifically addressing texting while driving). If anyone has insight on the Church teaching, please share!

Taking your eyes off the road is not intelligent for any reason. I learned my lesson when I took my eyes off the road at the age of 18 30+ years ago trying to tune in a radio station.

I think if you’ll actually read my post, you’ll see that the word “evil” is never mentioned. :smiley:

And I’m certainly capable of handling an iPod while driving. But I’m also smart enough to know better.

:rolleyes: Ha ha, very funny. :yawn:

I’m not sure I would go so far to call distracted driving a mortal sin. It might be if you got in an accident due to your negligence. The problem with distracted driving is that people think they can text, look down at their ipod, etc. and still drive well. They can’t no matter what they think. If you are looking at something else you aren’t watching the road and it only takes a second or two for something to happen.

Texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk. Does that answer your question?

Texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk.

If you can’t handle driving drunk don’t outlaw it, don’t do it yourself. Actually texting while driving is even more dangerous than driving drunk and not just by a little.

Sending a quick text while driving is equivalent to driving while drunk, sure some people can do it better than others, but no one should do it.

Also, poker does have strong elements of chance as the hand is due to chance, that said good skill can compensate to some degree for a bad hand. This is coming from an advantage player of blackjack.

Banning texting while driving is a morally good law, just like banning drunk driving.

I know someone who had over thirty years of driving experience without causing a single accident who totaled his car because he looked down to select a different station (merely pressing a single button as he preprogrammed it).

I don’t believe it is a sin at all because most people are doing these things unconsciously & a sin has to be with full consent of the will.
If watching the news at home brings the reality to a person’s mind and they still don’t care when they drive it may then be sinful.

Perhaps you might try reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for guidance.
There are 3 requirements for mortal sin. No one can get into your head.
Only YOU and Almighty God know if YOU have met the three requirements.

The fifth commandment forbids doing anything with the intention of indirectly bringing about a person’s death. The moral law prohibits exposing someone to mortal danger without grave reason, as well as refusing assistance to a person in danger. Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reasons, he has acted in a way that brings about someone’s death, even without the intention to do so.

#2269 - if you were to kill someone with distracted driving - texting when you know you should not or what ever.

If and only if he/she acted with FULL knowledge and consent. No one but God can judge. One cannot inadvertently commit mortal sin.

As I said in an earlier post, talking, texting etc. while driving is not a sin because 1. in itself the action is not sinful. 2. the person is not thinking of the possible accident. 3. there is no consent.
However, if the person watches a TV program that shows someone killed because of a person distracted by texting and consents to do it on a crowded highway, anyway…they may be held accountable by God.

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