If we want to reduce the number of auto and vehicle crashes, we must figure out how to stop people from using smartphones while driving. Some experts and analysts say many of us have a smartphone addiction. This, they say, is the root of the distracted driving problem. The evidence that smartphone use while driving is dangerous is overwhelming. Yet we cannot seem to put down the phone when we get behind the wheel.
We all know people who cannot be away from their phones. Researchers at the University of Washington wanted to know why we are addicted to our phones. They conducted a series of in-depth interviews to uncover why we feel compelled to check our phones constantly. They identified a series of triggers that start and end habitual smartphone use. These triggers, they say, are common across all age groups. They also studied “user-generated solutions” to stop undesirable phone use.
Researchers learned that people are frustrated with the way they engage with others via smartphone. But they report experiences with their phones that (they say) have “personal and persistent meaning.” A viable solution, therefore, should not be to eliminate smartphones. Instead, we need to understand how to recognize the value of smartphone use without bringing along the negative baggage.
The study worked with three groups of smartphone users: (1) high school students, (2) college students, and adults who have graduated from college.
The members of these groups shared four triggers for starting to use their smartphones compulsively:
- When they are not occupied (waiting for a friend to arrive, waiting for a meal to be served, etc.).
- In socially awkward situations.
- Before or during tedious and repetitive tasks.
- When expecting a notification or message.
They also identified three triggers that ended compulsive smartphone use:
- Competing demands (meeting a friend, needing to drive somewhere).
- Realizing they had been using their smartphones for 30 minutes.
- Finding content previously seen or read.
When asked to identify something about their behavior that they would like to change. Many of the participants wanted to learn more about lockout mechanisms that would prevent use of the phone for a given period of time. Very interesting was the fact that even when feeling about their behavior there was some ambivalence toward actually using the kind of mechanism they identified.
The researchers interpreted this ambivalence this way: “If the phone weren’t valuable at all, then sure, the lockout mechanism would work great. . . . But that’s not really the case.” But study participants found “meaning” in a range of experiences, particularly when apps connected them to the real world.”
Researchers concluded that the next wave of smartphones should include lock-out capabilities that can be defined by the phone user. They should decide which apps they would shut down rather than locking them out of the entire system. In other words, new phone designs should allow users to decide what is important to them and set up their phone accordingly.
Understanding these triggers, some say, will help us to understand why people may not be willing to put down their phones when driving. The next step will be to understand how to use the stop triggers to encourage people to put down their phones.
How Do We Stop People from Using Smartphones while Driving? The answer seems to be just beyond our reach at the moment. But it is clear that we must continue to learn more about why our smartphone use is so compulsive. Until we learn how to interrupt the process, we cannot compel people to stop driving while using smartphones. Until we stop distracted driving, we cannot reduce the number of auto and vehicle crashes that kill thousands each year.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile or vehicle crash with a distracted driver, or in any crash, call Altizer Law, P.C. When you need help or legal representation, you will find that Bettina Altizer and her team of experts bring together a deep compassion for your hurts and harms and a fierce determination to recover a settlement or jury award that fully compensates you for your injuries and losses. When you are hurt or you have lost a loved one to the negligence or wrongdoing of another person, we understand that it’s about the money.