Texting While Driving Study Compares Phone Use To Drug Addiction

By McCarton Ackerman 11/10/14

While almost everybody knows texting and driving is dangerous, a lot of people still do it anyway.

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Most people would be reluctant to compare their phone with a highly addictive substance, but a new study on texting while driving has compared phone use to drug addiction.

The research was commissioned by AT&T and conducted by the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, in cooperation with the "Texting & Driving…It Can Wait" campaign.The findings showed that while 90% of those surveyed knew they shouldn’t text and drive, 75% admitted to at least glancing at their phone while behind the wheel. 

Lead researcher Dr. David Greenfield suggested that receiving a message on your phone create a rush of dopamine and positive emotions, but “if that desire for a dopamine fix leads us to check our phones while we're driving, a simple text can turn deadly."

AT&T has addressed this issue by creating a free DriveMode iPhone app, which silences text messages alerts and lets senders know the user is driving whenever speeds of 15 miles per hour are reached. Parents can also be notified if the app has been shut off. "Those who are most likely to text and drive are also the most likely to take steps to stop," said the company in a statement. "And 82% of people who take action to stop texting and driving feel good about themselves."

A study released in May 2013 found that texting while driving surpassed drunk driving as the leading cause of traffic deaths among teens. Researchers at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park found that 3,000 teens die annually from texting while driving, compared to 2,700 from drunk driving. Those who text and drive are also 23 times more likely to find themselves in a car accident, but half of teenagers surveyed for the study admitted to texting while behind the wheel.

"We have very strong taboos against drinking and driving,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen. “Kids don't drink and drive every day. But some kids are out there texting and driving seven days a week—and they admit it.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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