If you’ve ever driven on Texas roadways, chances are you’ve come across these billboard campaigns: “Heads up, Texas,” “Talk, Text, Crash,” and “Hey You—Hang Up & Drive!” In 2017, the State of Texas officially made texting while driving illegal. These movements are in response to the astonishingly high number of distracted driving accidents every year. Despite the ban on texting while driving and several different driver safety educational programs, some people simply can’t resist.
Those who can’t fight the temptation to look at their phones while driving threaten the health, safety, and wellbeing of all who share the road, and most know that. So, if drivers know the risks and consequences of texting while driving, why can’t they put down their phones?
Dopamine, Smartphones, and the Road: A Fight for Attention
Dopamine is an organic chemical in our brains that influences motivation, mediating pleasure, reward, and most of all, attention. Smartphone usage is generally an enjoyable experience that stimulates the mind; therefore, your brain associates this activity with gratification. Think about it like this: what’s causing that boost of energy and rush you feel when you take a bite out of your favorite meal or when you ride on an exhilarating roller coaster? That’s dopamine being produced in the brain. It recognizes these satisfying behaviors and encourages you to keep doing them.
Social interactions have one of the largest effects on the dopaminergic system. When we receive appreciation from fellow peers, receive heartfelt messages from close friends, or see people smile, the dopamine levels in our brain increase. With the convenience of smartphones, we’re able to receive positive social interaction at the touch of a button. Push notifications pop up for likes, comments, tags, or messages. This explains why it may be so difficult for drivers to resist texting while driving—it seems that the reward is more important than what might come after.
What Texting and Driving Indicates About Self-Control
The average cell phone user touches their phone about 2,617 times a day. For heavily active users, it’s nearly twice as much. People depend on their smartphones for everything, such as communication, directions, and entertainment. Inevitably, those that are hooked—or, as some would say, “addicted”—may have little self-control when it comes to checking their phones. When we’re too focused on phones, we may miss out on valuable information.
Imagine what’s being missed when we’re driving. Driving is more mentally taxing than physically—we must constantly be aware of what we’re doing and what others are doing. Even the slightest diversion of attention can result in a devastating accident, and in the blink of an eye, someone’s life may be changed.
“It’s Not Going to Happen to Me”: The Problem with Unrealistic Optimism
The sad truth is that many people who text and drive never suspect that they’ll end up in an accident. This is called unrealistic optimism, where people believe they’re less likely than someone else to experience something bad. Each time someone engages in texting while driving and they walk away unharmed, it increases this concept of unrealistic optimism.
In addition, the repeated action of smartphone use makes people more comfortable and confident behind the wheel. They start to believe that they’re good at it or that they will have enough time to react when conditions change. The main problem with unrealistic optimism is that it leads to drivers making poor decisions, like texting while driving, because they’re not concerned about the dangers.
Top Distracted Driving Accident Attorneys Serving the State of Texas
Year after year, our knowledgeable attorneys have made Sutliff & Stout one of the most well-respected personal injury and accident law firms in Texas. Through our practice, we’ve successfully secured substantial verdicts and settlements for our clients—many of them constituting distracted driving claims. As technology continues to advance, so does the prevalence of distracted driving accidents. Our Board-Certified legal team knows the best practices for conducting a distracted driving accident investigation. You’ll feel at ease knowing we’ll examine every possible avenue to find who’s liable.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries due to a distracted driver, reach out to Sutliff & Stout today by calling (713) 987-7111 or completing a contact form for a free, no-obligation case review.