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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Why you can’t stop checking your phone

To fight texting and driving means confronting a bigger problem, say experts: our technology is reprogramming us.

Drive for long enough in America, and you’re bound to see someone texting behind the wheel. Maybe it’ll be the guy ahead of you, his head bobbing up and down as he tries to balance his attention between his screen and his windshield. Or maybe it’ll be the woman weaving into your lane, thumbing at her phone while she holds it above the dashboard. Maybe it’ll be you.

A recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed that drivers who are texting are twice as likely to crash, or almost crash, as those who are focused on the road. It’s a disturbingly common habit: According to a survey analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-third of American adults had e-mailed or texted on their phones while driving at least once during the previous month. And while most get away with it unscathed, many do not. The National Safety Council estimates that 213,000 car crashes in the United States in 2011 involved drivers who were texting, up from 160,000 the year before.

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