Everywhere I go – whether it’s to a restaurant for dinner or out shopping – I know I can always count on seeing teens attached to their phones. If you’re a parent, you already know this. Teens text constantly. On average, they send five times as many text messages a day as a typical adult.
Increasingly though, it’s not just teens who have trouble putting away their phones. It’s adults too. If you’ve ever wondered why it seems like the ring, buzz or chirp of a phone triggers an intense urge for your teen (or yourself) to immediately respond – even when you’re driving – you’re not alone.
New research 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 that twice as many people who self-report 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.
The reason behind this compulsive behavior is dopamine. Every time we get an update through text, email or social media, we experience an elevation of dopamine – a neurochemical in the brain that makes us feel happy. It’s when our desire for a dopamine fix leads us to check our phones while we’re driving that texting can turn deadly.
Ongoing research about the nature of texting while driving has led us at AT&T to focus on helping people find ways to resist the urge to text and drive at a potentially deadly moment of temptation, as part of the It Can Wait® movement. Earlier this year, we introduced #X. You can use #X as shorthand in social media, text or email to signal to others that you’re pausing the conversation before you drive, and that you’ll get back to them when you arrive safely at your destination.
And now, we’re thrilled to announce that the free AT&T DriveMode** app is now available for iOS – making it the first free no-texting-while-driving application from a major wireless carrier that works on Apple devices. The iOS app silences incoming text message alerts, turns on automatically when one drives 15 MPH or more and turns off shortly after one stops driving. It also allows parents with young drivers to receive a text message alert if the app is turned off.
The survey included some startling revelations about how our attachment to our mobile phones can lead us to use them when we’re driving – even when we know that’s wrong. For example, while 98 percent say they know texting and driving is dangerous, many rationalize their texting-and-driving behavior—a classic sign of addiction, according to Dr. Greenfield.
But the good news is that according to the research, those who are most likely to text and drive are also the most likely to take steps to stop. This is why the availability of tools like the DriveMode app, #X and the It Can Wait pledge are critically important. Whether you use DriveMode, #X or simply put your phone in the glove box, finding your own routine to actively prevent texting while driving could save a life – including your own.
 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Research: www.vtti.vt.edu
 AT&T, (2014). Are You Compulsive About Texting & Driving? Survey Says...You Could Be