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Texting and driving is down, but app use behind the wheel rises

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that in one year over 3,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents involving a driver who was distracted. While many drivers, including teenagers, may finally understand the dangers of texting and driving, it seems that some in South Carolina and elsewhere may also think using apps and other functions on a phone is perfectly acceptable. Psychologists say that behaviors will not change until people believe in the dangers of distracted driving.

One reason people continue to use their phones behind the wheel may be that they do not experience negative consequences. While distraction is said to be responsible for one out of every five accidents, psychologists say that every time a person drives with a phone in hand and manages it without incident, the brain receives positive reinforcement. The driver is then more likely to repeat the behavior as long as nothing negative happens.

While fewer teens in South Carolina and beyond admit to texting while driving, more report using phone apps and functions without remorse. In fact, they may even believe that using Facebook or checking notifications while driving is safer than texting, and therefore it is acceptable to do. One survey shows that nearly 80 percent of drivers feel safe making calls or using their GPS apps while driving, and that over 70 percent are comfortable being on Facebook behind the wheel.

With all these eyes on their cell phones, fewer eyes are on the road. A person who is checking notifications or texting and driving is less likely to react in time to avoid an accident. Many people who live with the consequences of distracted driving try to warn others of its dangers. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that many people may not change their behavior until a tragic accident occurs as a result of their negligent actions.

Source: cars.com, "This Is Your Brain on Apps: The Distracted Driving Dilemma", Matt Schmitz, Oct. 3, 2016

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