You’ve seen all the public service announcements, and you know that New York is pretty aggressive about passing out tickets for hand-held cellphone use behind the wheel.
So why do drivers keep doing it? More than a third of drivers admit to using an app on their phone at red lights and stop signs, and even more use their phones for other reasons while they’re in motion. If the behavior seems compulsive, that’s because it is.
Anxiety and a sense of responsibility trigger the behavior
Before anybody dismisses drivers who use their phones while behind the wheel as wholly irresponsible, they may want to look at a study that indicates that a heightened sense of personal responsibility may be the major cause of their behavior.
Drivers are more likely to respond to the ping of a text message, an email notification or an incoming call than they are to initiate those communications while driving. The behavior has been called “compulsive” by researchers — for good reason.
Researchers believe that increased stress and anxiety are the two most compelling forces behind driver behavior when it comes to cellphone use. Whether it’s a business professional worried about missing an important call or a parent who is worried about their child’s safety at school or home, the alert on their phone pulls them to respond.
The fear of a ticket or a crash is a less powerful force simply because the anxiety produced by a mobile alert exists in the known present — while a ticket or collision are mere possibilities at the time. That indicates that punitive measures (like tickets) are not as effective in reducing phone use behind the wheel as public education.
A ticket for phone use can be very costly
If you’ve been charged with using your phone while driving, the situation is serious. A conviction can subject you to large fines, points on your license and hefty insurance rates. Defending against the charges can be a nuanced process that you shouldn’t undertake alone.