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Michael Hill | Dec 18, 2014

The Bond of a Text Message

Our highways are dangerous in and of themselves, because of the number of vehicles on the roadways, poor roads and weather conditions. Adding any additional distractors increases the danger.

When people hear a noise or see a light flash while driving, the first thing they do is take their eyes off the road and look directly at their cell phones. Why do people continue to look and text on their cell phone, even though they know it is dangerous? The answer is dopamine, a neurochemical that we experience as pleasure in the midbrain. Each time we receive positive news from a friend by text, email or social media our brains receive dopamine. Our brain is conditioned to seek out positivity, leading many of us to check for messages instinctively.

What leads us to pick up our phone is that we never know when it's going to beep, ring or buzz, or what we are going to see on the screen. We feel many different emotions when we know we have a text message. There is an earning desire to check and see what someone has to say. We have become naturally conditioned to check our phones automatically, without thinking, every time we hear that ring or vibration. It's the variable fickleness that keeps the brain hyper-vigilant to those incoming positive messages.

A new survey made by The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and AT&T found that three-in-four people admit to looking at their phones while driving, and 30 percent say they do so because it is a habit. It's a neurobehavioral habit - a well-encoded neural-pathway in the brain that can easily help a compulsive pattern of behavior that resists logic and reason, but that is subtly rewarded with boosts of dopamine.

Engaging in visual-manual subtask, such as looking at your phone, texting, and dialing, increases the risk of getting into a crash by three times. Therefore, what will it take for a person to quit their phone habits while driving? For many, awareness of the dangers of texting and driving is enough to make them stop. For others, it takes a personal promise, like a pledge to a loved one or the influence of a friend.