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Laws Unlikely to Help If Texting While Driving Is Addictive

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You may have seen some new billboards and Television ads encouraging teenage drivers to put their cellphones down while driving. Not only is April National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the campaign is part of a larger trend to get drivers’ eyes off their phones and back on the road.

But according to marketing researchers, those signs could soon read “Texting? Get Help!” instead of threatening jail time.

Marketing professors at Washington State University surveyed hundreds of drivers to assess their attitudes toward texting and driving. They found that although texting causes hundreds of thousands of injuries every year, many drivers just can’t stop—suggesting that texting while driving could be an addictive behavior.

Is Texting While Driving Really Addictive?

There is surprising evidence to support the theory that texting while driving is addictive. For instance, those who are guilty of the practice have similar addictive behavior patterns, including:

  • Hiding illegal use – Research from the Highway Loss Data Institute suggests that habitual texters in states where texting and driving has been made illegal are more likely to cause accidents because they shift their phones out of sight to avoid being seen.
  • Rationalizing behavior – Study subjects routinely used excuses to rationalize their consistent illegal behavior, such as “I only text a word or two and glance back up, so it isn’t that dangerous,” “I always keep one hand on the wheel,” or “I only read, but I don’t respond.”
  • Saying one thing, doing another – Of the study’s 357 respondents, those between 18 and 49-years-old overwhelmingly had a negative attitude toward texting while driving—but over 25 percent of them admitted they were still likely to do it in the following month.

The researchers admitted that, if texting is indeed addictive, it will be far more difficult to convince texters to put down their phones. Although texting does not have the same “pull” as a chemical addiction, it’s a very strong habit that will have to be broken and retrained with new behavior. Public service announcements may have to address the fact that texters are often acting without thinking.

If you can’t stop texting while driving, you can remove the temptation to do so by placing your phone or purse in the trunk of the car until you have arrived at your destination. To learn more about how you can avoid these kind of accidents, we encourage you to browse our related links below or sign up for our FREE monthly newsletter.

Category: Car Accidents

Manfred Ricciardelli
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