Expert on tech addiction says issue cuts straight to the brain
AT&T DriveMode app, now available for iPhone, helps fight the temptation
If the ring, beep or buzz of your cell phone triggers an intense urge to respond, and you find yourself reaching for the phone - even when you're driving - you're not alone.
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, found twice as many people as self-reported cell phone addiction are showing compulsive phone behaviors - with three-in-four people admitting 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."
The study, fielded as part of the "Texting & Driving ... It Can Wait" campaign, was released as AT&T focuses on helping people find ways to resist the urge to text and drive at a potentially deadly moment of temptation.
•TheAT&T DriveMode app for iPhone is now available on the App Store - making it the first free no-texting-while-driving application offered by a major U.S. wireless carrier that works on the iPhone. The app silences incoming text message alerts, turns on automatically when one drives 15 MPH or more, and turns off shortly after one stops. When activated, it automatically responds to incoming SMS and MMS text messages so the sender knows the text recipient is driving. It also allows parents with young drivers to receive a text message if the app is turned off.
•The "It Can Wait" campaign is working with celebrities to help drive adoption of a new social shorthand, "#X." One can use it in social media, text or email to signal to the other person a pause in the conversation, and the driver will get back to the other person upon arriving safely at the destination.
The survey included some startling revelations about how an attachment to mobile phones can lead a person to use one when driving - even when we know we shouldn't.
While more than 90 percent say they know texting and driving is dangerous, many rationalize their texting-and-driving behavior - a classic sign of addiction, Greenfield said. Nearly three-in-ten said they could easily do several things at once, even while driving.
"However, many objective studies show that's not possible," Greenfield said.
The research suggests those who are most likely to text and drive are also the most likely to take steps to stop. And 82 percent of people who take action to stop texting and driving feel good about themselves.
"It Can Wait" is making a difference. The campaign has inspired more than 5 million pledges to never text and drive, and more than 1.8 million downloads of the Android and Blackberry versions of the DriveMode app. To learn more, visit www.ItCanWait.com.
The AT&T DriveMode app is available for free on the App Store for iPhone or at www.AppStore.com.
Visit att.com/drivemode for additional product details.
Greenfield is recognized as a leading authority on Internet, computer and digital media behavior, including compulsive and addictive use.