Are we addicted to our cellphones?

In previous posts, we have discussed the fact that truckers -- and all motorists, in fact -- can cause catastrophic accidents when they are distracted by their cellphones while driving. Sadly, despite the well-known and well-publicized risks of using a phone behind the wheel, people all across Albuquerque continue to do it.

It might be easy to blame such accidents on reckless drivers, but some researchers and addiction specialists believe that we could actually be addicted to our phones.

How our phones affect us

As noted in this CNN article, the pings of notification we get on our phone can trigger the release of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine is a chemical that makes people feel aroused, energized and rewarded. We get a similar response from eating, drinking, using drugs and other sources of addiction.

As one addiction professional and psychiatry professor notes, the ping of a notification on our phones can make people feel a compulsion to respond to it. We expect a reward, and the text, email or tag serves as that reward.

Shutting down other parts of the brain

Not only does a ping activate a rewards center of our brains, it also closes off the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of our brain responsible for much of our reasoning and judgment. 

In other words, researchers believe that a notification on our phone makes it easier for our brains to seek the reward of a potential message even though such an act is logically dangerous.

How this information can make us safer drivers

With all this in mind, motorists might recognize that simply trying to ignore phone notifications while driving may not be the best option. Instead, it can be more helpful to turn off the phone or utilize apps that stop a phone from notifying you of messages, apps and other notifications while you are driving. 

Minimizing distractions behind the wheel is crucial if we want to stay safe and avoid car and truck accidents. Unfortunately, it may be more difficult than people realize, especially when our brains make it easier to justify such behavior. 

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