For years, drunk driving was the scourge of vehicle safety advocates. Despite all of the data showing how alcohol affected people’s driving ability, people continue to get behind the wheel and cause crashes. Drunk driving remains an issue to this day, but it now shares its title as one of the leading causes of preventable car crashes caused by personal decisions.
Distracted driving has also become a major source of risk on the road and is responsible for thousands of deaths every single year. Despite safety advocates and driver’s education attempting to teach people about the risks that come from driving without focusing on the road, people continue to do so.
Why has distracted driving become such a ubiquitous and serious safety issue?
People are actually addicted to their mobile phones
Most people have a family member or a co-worker who can’t seem to put their phone down for more than a few minutes at a time. Perhaps they work a high-stress job and need to be constantly available to the employer. Maybe they have just spent so many years plugged into social media, emails and text messages that they cannot let go of the need for continual communication with others.
While people joke about being addicted to personal habits and items that don’t cause physical dependence, science has shown that people can actually become addicted to mobile phone use. Responding to notifications and frequent communication with others can be a source of dopamine, which is a chemical in your body that makes you feel good.
How does phone addiction lead to wrecks?
Those addicted to the dopamine provided by frequent phone use may not be able to ignore the sound of their phone notifying them of the incoming message. Even though they know it is dangerous to reach for their phone while driving, they will tell themselves that they can do it safely, just like people who drink convince themselves that they can drive home safely from the bar with little risk because they have done it before.
However, every time someone drives drunk or texts at the wheel, they are one bad decision closer to getting into a statistically likely car crash. If you struggle with compulsive phone use or feel frantic when you put your device down for a few minutes, you may need support to manage how you use mobile technology for your mental health and physical safety.
It’s also crucial that you recognize how phone use by others can endanger you on the road. Distracted drivers can blow through stop signs or hit cyclists because they don’t pay proper attention to their environment. Identifying and trying to avoid the most common causes of car crashes can protect you on the road and reduce your liability if a crash does occur.