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Drivers get a rush from text messaging


Virtually everybody agrees that texting while driving is dangerous business, yet survey after survey reveals that the vast majority of drivers admit to doing it — at least occasionally. Now comes someone to explain why we just can’t wait.

“We compulsively check our phones because every time we get an update through text, e-mail or social media, we experience an elevation of dopamine, which is a neurochemical in the brain that makes us feel happy,” says David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. “If that desire for a dopamine fix leads us to check our phones while we’re driving, a simple text can turn deadly.”

Greenfield teamed up with AT&T on a new survey that yielded familiar results: 98 percent of people said texting was dangerous and 74 percent of they said they are guilty of it. Most who do it rationalize the behavior, a classic sign of addiction, Greenfield said. Almost 30 percent said they’re capable of multi-tasking behind the wheel.

“However, many objective studies show that’s not possible,” Greenfield says.

Distracted driving has been cited as the cause of 3,300 traffic deaths and 420,000 injuries each year.

The top five reasons people gave for their texting habits: a compulsive need to stay connected with others; it’s simply a habit; it’s easy to multi-task while driving; the fear of missing an important message; and driving isn’t impaired by texting. Greenfield said 61 percent of those he surveyed sleep with their cellphone under the pillow or beside the bed and that the majority felt uncomfortable when they accidentally leave their phone behind.