Most of us have found ourselves distracted or become the victim of a driver on a cell phone over the last few years. Despite all of the publicity about the hazards of driving distracted, millions of drivers still take the chance. Recently, a study linked brain chemicals to distracted driving.

One academic has claimed people continue to reach for their phones and take their eyes off the road because of signals from their brains.

The research from Dr. David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, could spell bad news for legislators who think new laws alone may moderate driver behavior.

brain chemicals cause distracted driving

Brain chemicals are linked to distracted driving

Strayer said dopaminergic neurotransmitters, or to the layman, chemicals in the brain that signal other parts of the brain to act, compel people to reach for their phones, a report in the Detroit News noted.

Strayer said the need to reach for the phone is tied in with our brains getting a reward. He said:

“When the phone goes off, people feel compelled to look at that phone. They feel compelled because it’s actually a part of their social network that’s reaching out to them. It’s triggering some of the dopaminergic neurotransmitter systems that are associated with reward.”

Strayer’s comments were backed up by Dr. Barbara Jennings, of Sandia National Laboratories. In a TED Talk five years ago, she said the chemical dopamine is responsible for seeking. We get a dopamine release when we seek and find. When we get a bleep of a text message on a smartphone, we get a dopamine release when we check the message.

Unfortunately, this can be a deadly practice on the road. Taking your eyes off the road or multitasking while driving can have a similar effect as being drunk behind the wheel.

Recently, Consumer Reports noted the number of deaths linked to distracted driving fell slightly in 2016. In that year, 3,450 people lost their lives due to distracted driving, a 2.2 percent decline from 2015. However, the number of distraction-related deaths reported in 2016 was considerably higher than in 2011.

Increasingly, states are enacting stiffer distracted driving laws. It’s not clear yet if tougher laws like one recently enacted in Oregon will have an impact.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, call our Georgia auto accident lawyer at (404) 913-1529.