According to a new survey commissioned by AT&T and Dr. David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at The University of Connecticut School of Medicine, twice as many people as self-reported are showing compulsive phone behaviors. Three-in-four people admit to at least glancing at their phones while behind the wheel.
“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,” Greenfield said. “If that desire for a dopamine fix leads us to check our phones while we’re driving, a simple text can turn deadly.”
Greenfield explains that texting while driving is similar in appeal to gambling, with both habits being very hard for some people to overcome. Several celebrities have already signed up for public awareness campaigns that look to eliminate the dangerous habit, with over 40 states already setting laws for banning the practice.
Of the study respondents, 43 percent claimed that they text while driving because they want to remain connected with their loved ones or with work, and 30 percent said that they do so because it is out of habit as they are used to being connected with their phone. The compulsion of texting while driving could take several years to be overcome for those that are deep into the habit, resembling the challenge of drivers overcoming the similarly dangerous practice of drunk driving.
Mobile carrier AT&T, that has supported this current study as well, has reportedly unveiled a new mobile app, DriveMode, that tends to minimize your distraction while driving by restricting the text messages. According to the report the app automatically starts functioning while you are driving your car at 25 Kmph or above and turns of when you stop driving. It responds to the incoming texts or MMS to inform the sender that recipient is driving. When this app is on, incoming alerts are put on silent mode, texts cannot be sent and incoming calls go directly to voicemail. AT&T DriveMode is free to AT&T customers only. The AT&T DriveMode app for iOS and Android .
Greenfield called smartphones “the world’s smallest slot machines”
This is because they affect the brain in similar ways that gambling or drugs can. Dopamine levels increase as you anticipate messages, and that leads to higher levels of pleasure. Getting desirable messages can increase dopamine levels further.