Almost all 50 states have outlawed texting while driving

Many Americans may be addicted to text messaging

Driving while texting is one of the leading causes of accidents in the U.S., resulting in damages that often require an auto insurance claim. Distracted driving over the past several years has routinely been among the most common causes of highway fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Yet despite the public service announcements and litany of studies pointing to the fact that texting and driving is extremely dangerous, a substantial percentage of Americans continue to do it, even though they’re aware of the risks involved, based on the results of a new poll commissioned by AT&T.

In a study performed by David Greenfield, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Internet Technology Addiction and assistant clinical professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, an increasing percentage of Americans are showing signs of compulsive mobile device use. In a recent poll, for example, approximately 75 percent of respondents admitted to glancing once or twice at their phones while driving.

Greenfield pointed out that the reason why this is the case is because of how the brain works in reaction to things that are pleasurable.

“Approximately 75 percent of respondents to a new poll admit to glancing once or twice at their phones while driving.”

“We compulsively check our phones because every time we get an update through text, email or social media, we experience an elevation of dopamine, which is a neurochemical in the brain that makes us feel happy,” said Greenfield. “If that desire for a dopamine fix leads us to check our phones while we’re driving, a simple text can turn deadly.”

Distracted drivers often rationalize

He added that while 90 percent of Americans know that texting and driving is a dangerous behavior, based on his analysis, far too many people brush off this concern by rationalizing their behavior, telling themselves they’ll only look at their phone this one time or when they’re stopped at intersections. Despite what people may believe, however, multitasking in a manner that allows motorists to keep their foremost attention on the road is impossible, as many objective studies have confirmed.

As for why motorists check their devices as often as they do, some of the most common justifications included being worried about missing out on something important, being convinced that the quality of their driving hasn’t been adversely affected by their behavior, and feeling a sense of satisfaction that responding to a text message brings, the study found.

To help prevent motorists from succumbing to the urge to text behind the wheel, AT&T offers a free app that consumers can download on to their mobile device. Once users enable it on their smartphones, it silences incoming text message alerts. Additionally, should a motorist receive a text message while they’re driving, the sender is informed of the fact that they’re driving via an automated messaging system.

NTSB wants universal ban on texting and driving

Washington was the first state to ban texting while driving, doing so in 2007. Since then, 46 states have followed suit. Several trade groups and government bodies, however, have called for a countrywide ban, including the National Transportation Safety Board.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the greatest risk for an accident among 16- to 19-year-olds. Each year, more than 3,300 motorists were killed on America’s roadways as a result of distracted driving, according to NHTSA statistics.