“Ask a Priest: Should I Tell the Truth About Texting Before a Car Accident?”

Q: Over the winter I was in a car accident. The accident happened as I was driving down a wet hill, glancing at my phone. I was texting a friend as I was on my way toward his house, and this is something that I know was wrong. However, as I looked up and saw headlights coming from around a turn in the hill, I noticed I was hovering over the center line quite a bit. I tried to direct my steering wheel back onto my side of the road. Eventually I slid into the back side of the oncoming car. Following the car accident an officer was asking me some questions about the accident. When asked about being distracted while driving, I quickly said no, not wanting him to think I was texting and driving. Following the accident, I talked with my family’s insurance agent about the wreck also, and I told him I had no distractions. This bothered me after the accident, and I asked my dad about it, but I tried to justify this answer because the accident could have still happened nonetheless. Recently, I have wanted to e-mail the police department about this incident and be straightforward with them. Maybe they could alter the police report. Matthew 5:24 says to make right with others and then bring it to God. However, at the same time the Bible also tells us not to think to extremes. Other examples come to mind when I was not straightforward with a police officer, should I address these? Where do I draw the line? – B.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It sounds as though your conscience is already leading you in a certain direction.

First, it might be good to consider coming clean with Our Lord, by going to confession and making a firm commitment not to text and drive at the same time any more (a dangerous act) and to stick to the truth.

You might extend that commitment to the truth to coming clean about the accident report with the police. The accident could have been avoided, had it not been for the texting. And the insurance company might have ended up paying out more money than it should have in this case. This would be an offense against justice.

This could be a defining moment for you. If you don’t come clean, will this hang over your conscience?

The danger here in the long term is that you could end up forcing yourself to ignore your conscience — which can have dire consequences later on. Worse, this ignoring of your conscience could be a step closer to stifling it altogether.

This is something you might want to take to prayer. Remember the words of Jesus: “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

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