The Psychology Behind Distracted Driving: Why Can’t We Put Down Our Phones?

The Psychology Behind Distracted Driving: Why Can’t We Put Down Our Phones?
Calendar icon September 18, 2023

Distracted driving is a hazardous behavior that can lead to someone not paying attention to the road and crashing into another driver. Without a complete focus on driving safely, a driver can make an error that can expose others to significant car accident injury risk.

One of the most common types of distracted driving is using a cell phone behind the wheel. All drivers know the dangers of using a phone while driving, as texting while driving is illegal in 48 states. However, many still do it and distract themselves from driving safely.

Using a phone while driving is an impulsive choice by drivers seeking to stay connected to their friends and family through texting, calling, and social media. People use their phones while driving to keep up-to-date on important social and business information, to receive a dopamine boost in the brain, and because they feel they are good enough drivers to handle both.

The Psychology Behind Distracted Driving: Why Can't We Put Down Our Phones?

What Makes Distracted Driving So Dangerous?

Car accidents result from negligent driving behavior from drivers that includes reckless behavior like speeding, drunk driving, and running red lights. The most common car accident cause in the United States is distracted driving, which is when the driver focuses on something other than driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,522 people died from distracted driving accidents in 2021. Focusing more on something other than driving, such as eating and drinking, putting on makeup, or having a conversation with someone in the car, can obscure attention away from obstacles, traffic control signals, and other drivers.

While focusing on something other than driving, a driver can lose control of their vehicle and cause a car accident. Their negligence in failing to focus on driving safely can lead to severe car accident injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), broken bones, and facial injuries.

The Dangers of Using a Phone While Driving

There are four common types of distractions that can lead to a car accident: auditory, visual, cognitive, and manual. Using a phone while driving can encompass all four, as a driver may be more focused on hearing someone on the phone, using their hands to text, looking down at their phone, and worried about what they’re saying to someone else than the road.

According to the National Security Council (NSC), the use of handheld electronic devices while driving has increased exponentially over the past decade. A recent survey found that about 80% of Americans admit to using their cell phone while driving at one point. 

Texting while driving causes significant distractions to drivers, so much so that 48 states have made it illegal. Drivers can take their eyes off the road and miss another vehicle in front of them, leading to a rear-end car accident. Car accident victims struck by a driver using a cell phone can experience significant car accident injuries and suffer economic and non-economic damages.

Drivers Use Their Phones to Keep Up-to-Date on Important Information

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, using a phone while driving is an impulsive decision. People are more likely to use their phone while driving when they exhibit “the tendency to act impulsively when experiencing negative affect.”

One reason why people can experience the impulse to use their phones while driving is when they feel the need to connect with others. Phones allow for instant communication for people across the world. While that can help keep in contact with long-distance friends and family, it can also have an addictive quality.

People can feel that they are missing out when they aren’t on social media or texting in their group chats. Rather than wait an hour or so for their commute to end, they may use their phones to stay up-to-date with what’s happening with their job, family, or friend group.

Texting and Using Social Media Releases a Dopamine Boost in the Brain

Another reason people may use their phones while driving despite the known dangers is the dopamine release caused by the action. Many scientific studies have delved into the positive psychological affirmation caused by using your phone for texting, calling, or social media.

After a good interaction using the phone, the brain can experience a small chemical change called a dopamine boost, which is a positive, intense feeling of reward. It can have a similar effect on the brain as using a drug, as it can cause a chemical change that obscures danger.

Despite knowing using a phone while driving is dangerous, many drivers do it because of the high they can receive from a positive interaction. However, the positive chemical response does not obscure the fact that distracted driving can cause a catastrophic car accident.

Many Drivers May Overestimate Their Driving Ability

The human brain can deceive people into believing they can accomplish something they cannot. This can be a good thing in some cases, as it drives people to try to accomplish great things that seem unlikely. However, in the case of using a phone while driving, this self-deception can result in car accident damages

A study by cognitive neuroscientist David Strayer took a look at the human brain’s capacity to focus on multiple tasks. While the brain may trick someone into thinking they can multi-task, only about 2.5% of people can do so successfully.

When driving, the brain may trick someone into thinking they can use their phone at the same time. Their overconfidence in believing they can accomplish this can lead to distracted driving. Common mistakes that can result include speeding, missing a vehicle, switching lanes, and running a stop sign or red light.

Contact Cellino Law for Help With Your Distracted Driving Accident Claim

The car accident lawyers at Cellino Law can help you following a car accident with a distracted driver. They have decades of experience helping car accident victims hold at-fault parties accountable for causing damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Our car accident lawyers know the dangers presented by distracted driving. Drivers using their phones while driving expose others to unnecessary risk and can be liable for car accident damages. Contact Cellino Law today for a free distracted car accident consultation by calling us at (888) 888-8888 or leaving a message on our online contact page.

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Content checked by the personal injury attorney Ross Cellino. As a family man and a trial attorney, I pride myself on winning cases and serving the community. With over 35 years of experience, I understand the function of a jury, how juries arrive at conclusions, and the role that the jury plays in administering justice. I know how to win cases. You can find us in Manhattan, Buffalo, Melville, Rochester, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and other locations throughout New York.

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