Cellphone addiction fuels America’s growing distracted driving problem

This summer, NBC Chicago reported on a multi-car collision that claimed the life of a 50- year-old man and sent two other people to the hospital. The motor vehicle accident was triggered by a texting motorist who started a chain-reaction collision when he rear-ended the decedent's car. Family members of the decedent were angered and distraught over what they felt was a senseless and preventable tragedy. One family member was quoted as saying that she was shocked that an adult could be careless enough to text while driving.

According to a report published in the Chicago Tribune, during any daylight moment, about 660,000 U.S. drivers use cellphones or manipulate other electronic devices while driving. Thousands die each year from distracted-driving crashes. Around 400,000 people suffer personal injuries annually due to a distracted driver. The number one distraction in today's society is the cellphone. Studies show that dialing, texting or even glancing at a cellphone while driving triples the risk of accidents. While Americans realize that using a cellphone while driving can be deadly, we cannot seem to help ourselves.

The urge to check one's cellphone constantly is increasingly being viewed as addictive and habit forming. An article published by Yahoo Finance found that one-third of U.S. adults admitted in a survey to checking or using their cellphone in a movie theater or on a dinner date. One in five used their cellphone in church while one in 10 admitted checking it in the shower or during sex. Not surprisingly, more than half of those surveyed admitted using their cellphone while driving although they knew it was dangerous. Mobile Marketer cites a study finding that "it is harder to resist a new text message than a nicotine fix."

A fascinating article recently published in the New York Times focuses attention on new research by psychologists and neuroscientists who are studying why we seem to be addicted to constantly checking our cellphones even while driving. Researchers are discovering that, when the cellphone rings or a text comes in, people's brains are "hard-wired" to ascertain what the information being sent their way is. In each of us there is a primal urge to be made aware of information that could be important and even profoundly life-changing.

When our cellphone indicates that information has been sent to us, we wonder who the caller/sender is and whether the information they have to impart is bad news or good news. Conceivably, we think whether a family member is in distress or a sought-after job opportunity has panned out. Our brains implore us to take just a moment from focusing on driving to ascertain what it is that someone is trying to tell us. Unfortunately, reading the text or email may result in tragic and possibly fatal consequences.

Safety tips

The Illinois Tollway website offers the following safety tips for cellphone users:

  • Always pull over to a safe location to use a cell phone.
  • If you must answer the phone, use a hands-free device.
  • Do not send or read text messages while driving.

If you desire to be immune to the temptation to use a cellphone while driving, put the phone out of sight and out of reach when you get into a car.

Seeking compensation

One is entitled to seek compensation if he or she is injured due to the negligence of another person. If you or a loved one has sustained injuries as a result of a distracted driver, you should contact an Illinois attorney experienced in handling motor vehicle accident cases.