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You would think that with all the traffic fatalities directly linked to distracted driving, the phrase “It Can Wait” would sink in. But years have passed, and it simply hasn’t. Want to hear a scary fact about distracted driving? 1 in 4 car accidents that take place in United States are caused by texting and driving. That is staggering given the amount of car accidents that take place every day – and the fatalities involved in a large percentage of them. We’ve campaigned. We’ve used scare tactics. Law enforcement has cracked down hard on texting and driving. Yet, it’s still taking place. Why? It’s psychological.
There is a psychological reason we feel the need to pick up the phone while we’re driving. David Greenfield is the founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at The University of Connecticut. His studies on the psychological underpinnings of texting and driving reveal why all of our hard work to combat the texting while driving problem has not worked: “Addiction is what drives the behavior. There is a psychological mechanism where [people] deny the fact that this one instance will not be dangerous. That is a complete cognitive distortion. And this flies in the face of the fact that they know intellectually that it’s dangerous…” Furthermore, Greenfield points out that “Every time we anticipate a response [from someone on our cell], there’s an anticipation that the message is positive and if it is positive, we get a hit of dopamine. And if it isn’t, we don’t. But because it is unpredictable, the smartphone functions as the world’s smallest slot machine. That unpredictability keeps us in that anticipatory search…” Like all addictions, the texting while driving problem is hard to break. So, it’s time we strategize a different way to combat this problem. And one man of Sartell, Minnesota, is fully on it.
The man behind the invention: Mitch Bain. The invention: The “CellSlip”. The CellSlip is a red pouch that’s lined with a conductive fabric which blocks radio frequencies, such as texts or calls, from reaching a cell phone. Once the cell phone is taken out of the pouch, all calls, texts, or voicemails will appear.
“A lot of people are not getting in their car proactively wanting to use their cell phone, but when they get that message alert or Snapchat or Facebook message, that dopamine goes off and there is the urge to respond right away,” Bain said. So, he thought, “What if we can take out human error and just totally be disconnected?”
One could ask, “Why not just turn your cell phone off?” But it seems we simply can’t seem to do that. 81% of Americans admit that they never turn their cell phones off. A recent study conducted by the AAA revealed that 70% of drivers admitted to talking on their cell while driving. 42% admitted to looking at or responding to texts while driving. And these percentages only account for those who admit – we can’t forget that many deny facts, even to themselves.
Bain isn’t quite ready to bring his invention to the popular hit TV show “Shark Tank”, where it could serious investment and marketing opportunities. But, as with any tool to combat an addiction, there are flaws.
We can see this invention becoming huge. But, we can also see how people would rationalize reasons not to use the CellSlip. The cost for it isn’t much: around $15. But that urge to check your phone might break through when you’re at a stop light. One might think, “Why not? Let me just check”. Others might think, “What if it were an emergency – I would pull over to take the phone call.”
There are other ways to stop yourself from texting and driving that people should be aware of. For one, the SafeDrive No Texting while Driving app can be helpful when used correctly. It prevents people from using their phone while they’re driving over 10mph. It allows you to take emergency calls, play music and use GPS. But the fact is it still allows you to use your phone while driving at 10mph. And 10mph is enough to cause an accident.
The sad truth is, it may take both car manufacturers and cell phone manufacturers to be on the same page to fully put a stop to this problem. That may take a while. But the CellSlip is a serious move in the right direction. We hope drivers understand the psychology behind texting and driving so they can stop rationalizing reasons to use their phones while driving. The CellSlip can save lives. We should give it the chance it deserves.