Distracted driving is an epidemic across the entire United States. In 2013, 424,000 people were injured and 3,154 people were killed in car crashes caused by distracted drivers.
According to Fox2Now, the addictive nature of our smartphones and how accustomed we have become to using them plays a major role in our distracted driving.
Laura Maurer, a mother from Iowa, safely pulled over to text one of her clients. After she had sent the text, she got back on the road and continued driving. A few moments later she heard her phone’s alert that she had a new message. She tried to ignore the sound, but couldn’t. She glanced at the text, just for a moment, and ended up killing a 75-year-old man while on a tractor.
“The reason why she answered that ping is because she felt compelled or felt a compulsion in order to answer it,” said David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction.
Smartphones affect the human brain without us even being aware of it. Whenever we hear an alert from a phone — whether it’s a new text, email, social media message or call — we get a hit of dopamine, a chemical that increases arousal, and our brains are reenergized.
“The dopamine reward centers are the same centers that have to do with pleasure from eating, pleasure from sex and procreation, pleasure from drugs and alcohol,” added Greenfield. “This reward circuitry is as old as time and if we didn’t have it, we probably wouldn’t exist as a species.”
An Alabama researcher, Despina Stavrinos, director of University of Alabama at Birmingham’s distracted driving research lab, believes that reinforcement theory plays a major role in our continued distracted driving.
“So you’re driving every day, sending text messages, and nothing happens,” Stavrinos said. “So it’s reinforcing to you, ‘Hey, I can do this. I am a pretty good multitasker.’ The problem is again if some unexpected hazard pops up and you’re not able to respond appropriately, it could be fatal.”
WBRC reports that Alabama continues to have trouble with distracted drivers causing accidents.
“We have a problem with distracted driving and it’s not necessarily just on the phone,” said Alabama State Trooper Jamie Maloy. “I mean, you have the radio in the car, people are eating in the car, other people in the car are carrying on a conversation and just not paying attention to their surroundings.”