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Can Someone Be Addicted to Distracted Driving Behavior?

We’ve talked about distracted driving on multiple occasions. People admit to doing everything from talking and texting to video chatting to taking selfies while behind the wheel. All of this activity is taking place despite the proven dangers of using mobile devices while driving as well as the laws around the country intended to curb it. Why is that?

One psychologist and assistant professor, Dr. David Greenfield, says that some people are actually addicted to their digital devices and the information they can send and receive by using them. He even started the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. Dr. Greenfield says that some people are addicted to this “digital drug.” He compares the feeling that people get while texting, talking or surfing the Web to the feeling of playing a slot machine.

In a study that he did with AT&T, some 22 percent of subjects indeed blamed their need to remain plugged in while behind the wheel on an “addiction.” Over 60 percent of subjects admitted to texting behind the wheel, about 33 percent said they checked email, 30 percent said they looked at Twitter, and 17 percent admitted to taking a picture of themselves while driving.

The “reward” that people get from all of this activity, according to the doctor, is positive. Therefore, it will “elevate the amount of dopamine in your brain, which is a pleasure chemical. It increases the likelihood of wanting to do it.”

Florida prohibits texting while driving, but only as a secondary law. This means that the driver can only be cited for it if he or she is pulled over for some other infraction.

Automakers are increasingly making cars where people can do many of these activities on their dashboard rather than having to hold a device. However, focusing on anything other than the road can still be extremely dangerous.

Fortunately, law enforcement is able to determine whether someone was talking, texting or online in the seconds prior to a crash. That can increase the legal penalties for at-fault drivers and help plaintiffs as they pursue civil action to get needed compensation after an auto accident.

Source: CBS News, “Are drivers getting high from behind-the-wheel phone use?,” June 25, 2015

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