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Your teen's brain on texts: The reason they text and drive

We all know the dangers of texting and driving. Even a brief look away from the road to glance at our phones is the reason why, in 2014, more than 3,100 people were killed and roughly 431,000 were injured in distracted driving vehicle collisions in the United States, according to distraction.gov. Of those reported to have been involved in fatal crashes due to distracted driving, roughly 10 percent were between the ages of 15 and 19.

So why do teens across the country continue to text and drive? Well, it has a lot to do with the chemicals in the brain.

According to a September 2012 article for Psychology Today, the jingle or buzz of a cellphone causes our brain to release a hit of dopamine, which then causes us to "want, desire, seek out, and search" for our phones -- even if we're driving. Because dopamine also makes us feel good, we are more likely send a message while driving so we can get another hit of dopamine when the person on the other end responds.

"But adults do it too..."

You're probably thinking: Adults text and drive too, so why are teens so susceptible? An April 2012 article for Psychology Today has an answer to that as well: our cognitive load.

Despite popular belief, our brains are not hardwired to multitask. We have what is called a cognitive load, or "an amount of mental activity that it can engage in at one time," the article explains.

Adults, who have been driving for years, typically have little trouble texting and driving -- despite how dangerous it is -- because driving is less of a cognitive load and they are able to focus more of their attention on the road and their surroundings. Teens, on the other hand, do not have this reserve of muscle memory. Driving is an immense cognitive load, meaning their attention is split more evenly between their phones and the road.

Don't take the risk - don't text and drive

Whether you're a teen or an adult, texting and driving is an incredibly bad idea. As was stated above, distracted driving kills thousands nationwide each year or can result in serious or catastrophic injuries that could leave a person disabled for the rest of their life.

In addition to the immense impact a crash can have on someone's life, distracted driving is considered negligent driving here in Georgia, which means a crash could also lead to a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

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