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We know it's wrong, so why do we still drive while distracted?

Posted by Smiley & Smiley on Sep 1, 2016 6:27:36 PM

As much as we would like to deny it, many of us have been driving and have found the urge to check our phones irresistible. We hear the alert that we have a new text or see a notification that someone has commented on our Facebook post and find ourselves reaching for phone, even though we know we shouldn't.

Why do we do this? According to one doctor, it is because we are addicted to our phones.

According to this CNN article, there are reasons to believe that our brains are wired to think of checking our phones as a reward. This makes it harder to ignore them and more likely that drivers will engage in distracted driving even though they know it's dangerous.

One doctor suggests that our brains release dopamine when we hear or see a message come into our phone. The release of dopamine, which is a chemical that increases pleasure, causes a temporary shutdown of the part of our brains that control reasoning and judgment.

This is why people often engage in pleasurable activities until they are no longer pleasurable. So, it may take a catastrophic car accident to convince someone that even a moment of distraction can have devastating consequences.

This would also explain why we so many people are able to rationalize phone usage while driving, even though they know it's unsafe. 

All this would suggest that we are biologically wired to engage in distracted driving. But the fact is that drivers are absolutely capable of resisting the temptation of distraction. It takes willpower and an appreciation for just how risky the behavior is.

This perspective on distracted driving could help people recognize why they might feel inclined to use their phones while driving, which could also shed some light on the various ways we can avoid doing that. Silencing our phones, tucking them in the backseat and allowing ourselves to pull over should we feel the urge to use them are all effective ways of avoiding distraction and staying safe behind the wheel. 

Topics: car accidents

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