Is Texting While Driving an Addiction?
A new survey reveals that drivers across the country are still ignoring the risks of distracted driving and pulling out their cell phones while behind the wheel. AT&T polled over 2,000 people across the United States as to their driving habits and cell phone usage. The results were appalling enough to concern any driver. AT&T found that 61 percent of all those polled texted while driving. A third checked their emails and 17 percent even admitted to taking a selfie, all while driving. Thirty percent of drivers checked Twitter and one in ten drivers turned on video chat. Drivers conducted these dangerous activities despite the fact that texting while driving is banned in at least 46 states and several other states ban the use of cell phones altogether.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that over 3,000 people are killed due to distracted driving each year. Safety experts predict that drivers who text are an astonishing 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident and even just making a phone call while driving increases crash rates by three times.
Getting a High from Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel
One doctor who founded the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction at the University of Connecticut has hypothesized that people actually get a high from using their cell phones while driving. This high is akin to playing a slot machine. In fact, he believes that the effect of using a cell phone while driving is increased dopamine in the brain, which is the chemical linked to pleasure. The euphoric feeling caused by dopamine leads drivers to repeatedly engage in the behavior. This theory would be one explanation for the persistence of drivers in using their phones behind the wheel despite recognized dangers and the threat of criminal punishment.
Decreasing Texting While Driving Rates
Thus, it becomes a difficult question as to what the government and safety experts can do to stop people from texting while driving or engaging in like behaviors when the threat of punishment seems not to adequately deter them. Some proposed solutions lie in the advent of new technologies. Several phone apps are now available for purchase that prevent motorists from using their phones while driving, but these apps require the texter to download and activate them prior to driving
Other companies are using more advanced eye detection software that would detect if you became distracted and notify you to stop the behavior. All of these technologies, however, rely on people putting effort into not texting while driving or using their cell phones—motivation that appears to be lacking in the digital age.
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