What drivers feel and how they act can be two different things. Most, if not all, Boston drivers are well aware of the dangers of drinking and driving. However, that knowledge hasn’t eliminated drunk-driving accidents.
The same thought and action disconnect may be true for texting and driving, especially among young drivers. According to more than one survey, including a university poll released in March 2015, most drivers agreed texting while driving is a dangerous activity. At the same time, a significant portion of drivers admitted they did it anyway.
A poll of over 900 drivers found 87 percent of respondents thought emailing and texting were driving hazards. However, seven percent of drivers, ages 35 to 54, and 17 percent of drivers, ages 18 to 34, confessed to engaging in those practices. No survey participants 55 and older admitted sending texts or emails while driving.
Eighteen percent of survey participants said the “urge” to use a phone while driving was too strong to resist. A New England psychiatrist, who founded The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, thinks drivers from the Millennial generation feel smartphones are extensions of their identities. They’ve never known a time when cellphones didn’t exist.
Smartphones apparently influence people’s behavior in much the same way gambling does. The brain releases the mood-lifting chemical dopamine when people receive a pleasant email message or text. Checking messages repeatedly increases chances for a positive message and another shot of brain-generated happiness.
Considering the brain’s powerful influence, the addiction expert believes texting awareness campaigns are useless compared to strict laws. Massachusetts is one of 44 states where texting while driving is outlawed. However, cellphone use is permitted for drivers 18 and older.
Juries interpret irresponsible driver behavior as negligence in Massachusetts motor vehicle accident lawsuits. Inattentiveness detracts from a driver’s duty of care to take reasonable actions to protect others on the road.
Source: USA Today, “Texting while driving kills, but will we stop?” Mary Bowerman, Mar. 12, 2015