Research: Addiction may explain why Illinois drivers keep texting

Many drivers identify texting as dangerous but report doing it anyway, which reflects the potentially addictive nature of texting while driving.

Texting while driving is illegal in Illinois, and it is also widely recognized as a dangerous behavior. According to the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, texting drivers are 23 times more likely to experience accidents. Still, this habit continues to contribute to a large proportion of accidents in O'Fallon and other parts of the state. Research shows that nearly one-quarter of all motor vehicle accidents involve drivers who are talking or texting.

The prevalence of this behavior and these accidents is surprising, in light of state laws and other safety initiatives. However, research increasingly suggests that many drivers are physically addicted to texting. This means that these drivers may persist in this behavior in spite of potential legal sanctions and other deterrents.

Compulsive behaviors

According to Fox News, in late 2014, AT&T surveyed drivers about their texting habits. The survey found that more than 90 percent described texting while driving as dangerous. However, about 75 percent still admitted to doing it. These drivers cited various reasons to justify their risky behaviors, which could be an indication of addiction, as Fox News notes.

CBS News states that many drivers reported texting while behind the wheel due to social expectations or fears about missing important information. For 28 percent of drivers, concerns about missing out on something justified texting while driving. Another 25 percent of drivers reported feeling like they were expected to reply to texts promptly. Additionally, many drivers reported typical signs of addiction, including:

  • For 14 percent of the surveyed drivers, failing to respond to texts while driving resulted in feelings of anxiety.
  • For 17 percent of the drivers, reading or composing text messages produced feelings of satisfaction.
  • For 6 percent of the drivers, texting represented a self-diagnosed addiction.

As Fox News explains, reading and responding to text messages can help elevate dopamine levels in the brain. This produces rewarding feelings of happiness, which may encourage drivers to continue texting, even though they should know better.

Unrealistic beliefs

A surprising number of the surveyed drivers also thought that they were personally immune to the dangers of texting. According to CBS News, fewer than one in ten drivers expressed the belief that texting while driving was generally safe. However, about one-quarter stated that they thought texting did not adversely affect their driving performance.

Unfortunately, these hypocritical and even delusional attitudes may lead many drivers in Illinois to ignore state laws and continue texting. When these drivers cause accidents and harm others, legal recourse may be available. Accident victims should consider meeting with an attorney to learn more about potential legal remedies.