#X

By David S. Fried

Texting & Driving…it can wait has launched a campaign to help people resist the urge to text while driving. A new survey by AT&T and Dr. David Greenfield, a professor and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, found that drivers almost universally agree that texting while driving is dangerous. Nevertheless, seventy-four percent of surveyed drivers read or sent texts while driving, read or sent texts at a stop sign or red light, or looked at their phone for new messages while driving. Why? Most said they wanted to stay connected and it was habit. Almost 30% of the survey group insisted they could easily do numerous things while driving –texting among them.   It’s just not true – texting while driving increases the risk of a crash by 23 times. Fried & Bonder has written previously on this topic.

Even more interesting, though, is that Dr. Greenfield—who studies the effects of digital technology on neurological processes—says cell phones and texting affect the brain in ways similar to gambling or drugs. “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,” says Dr. Greenfield. Thus, dopamine levels increase as you anticipate messages and that leads to higher levels of pleasure. We get a dopamine rush every time we check our phone. Then we develop a desire for that “fix.” While driving, this behavior can be deadly. In 2011, for example, 23% of all accidents involved a cell phone – that’s 1.3 million crashes. And the minimum amount of time your attention is diverted from the road when texting is a staggering 5 seconds. Texting while driving 55 miles per hour, then, is the same as driving the length of a football field without looking at the road.   Go here to get all the stats.

Greenfield’s study, It Can Wait Compulsion Survey, was fielded and released as part of AT&T’s focus on helping people find ways to resist the urge to text and drive. Enter the AT&T DriveMode app. The app silences text message alerts, turns on when one drives 15 MPH or more, and turns off shortly after one stops. When activated, it also automatically responds to incoming SMS and MMS texts so the sender knows the text recipient is driving. It also allows parents with young drivers to receive a text message if the app is turned off. The AT&T app is free but it’s not the only no-texting-while-driving app on the market. Take a look and download one now.

AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign is bearing fruit. Over 5 million drivers have pledged to never text and drive.   More than 1.8 million drivers have downloaded the DriveMode app. And next up, It Can Wait is working with celebrities to encourage the use of a new social shorthand, “#X.” The hope is that the hash tag will be adopted and used in social media, text and email to signal to others that the driver is pausing conversation before driving. So, #These are all good ideas. #don’t text and drive. #down load an app. #this writer is going to get in his car and drive.   #X.

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