In Seattle, texting while driving is illegal as is using a handheld cell phone while operating a vehicle. Yet, a study of 7,800 drivers in counties throughout Washington showed that as many as 1 in 12 motorists in the state uses a phone in some capacity while driving. Around half of the motorists using a phone are texting, according to the Seattle Times.
Any texting while driving accident lawyer in Seattle knows that texting or talking on a cell phone is dangerous behavior that significantly increases the risk of a crash. The National Safety Council for example, estimates 732,000 crashes so far this year and data shows that a quarter of all car accidents involve cell phone use. Most drivers also know how dangerous cell phone use is, yet many drivers continue to do it anyway. The question is: why?
Cell Phone Use is a Hard Habit to Break
The Boston Globe offers one answer to the question of why so many motorists are using their phones behind the wheel. According to psychologists, the reason is that the use of a cell phone has become a habit.
People’s brains are hard-wired to develop habits to increase productivity, and habits center around the creation of triggers. When the same behaviors are done over and over again, usually in response to the same stimulus, the behaviors become automatic and you don’t really have to think about them. Whenever the trigger happens, your body and brain are inclined to just do the ingrained activity.
Psychologists who study the formation of habits believe this phenomenon is observable in the way people interact with their phones. After observing how 136 users used their phones over a six week period, the researchers released that people were picking up their phones as many as 60 times per day for brief periods. Often, the same trigger caused the users to pick up the phone and do the same series of actions or follow the same sequence of events.
Since phones do so many different things and people use them in so many different ways, psychologists believe that many triggers are created when it comes to phone use. A ring of a phone, a ding of a text message or even simply feeling bored can all become triggers and can lead the phone user to just automatically pick up the phone and go through the habitual steps.
This explains why people who know that cell phone use is dangerous will still pick up their phone behind the wheel. Drivers are well aware of the risks of cell phone use, with 94 percent in favor of banning texting while driving. Drivers also appear feel guilt when they use their phones, as the team of investigators who were observing cell phone use in Seattle reported that drivers hid or dropped their phones when they realized someone was watching. Yet, even with the guilt and the knowledge of the risks, it is just too hard for many drivers to break the habit.
Psychologists suggest that motorists don’t try to fight the triggers. Instead, drivers are advised to fight bad habits with good ones. Motorists should make a habit of putting their phone away when they get into the car so they aren’t tempted to reach for it as they drive.