Cellphone addiction – ‘it’s them, not me’

Published 11:04 pm Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A table at DrugWarFacts.org rates the addictive qualities of drugs. The criteria are the severity of withdrawal symptoms, the drug’s reinforcement or “hold” on users and its tolerance, dependence and intoxication properties.

Heroin, alcohol, nicotine and cocaine, by that metric, are considered the most addictive substances. Based on a couple of new polls, maybe smartphones should be added to the list.

• More than 75 percent of those responding to a survey by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons said they consider distracted walking a serious problem. Ninety percent said those distractions are smartphone related, and 68 percent described the distractees as totally zoned out.

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• A survey by State Farm found fewer people are talking on their mobile phones while driving, but the number of people who text and drive has increased to 36 percent and the number of folks doing something on the Internet while driving has jumped to 29 percent. The survey found 23 percent of drivers read email, 19 percent take photos and 10 percent record video while behind the wheel.

Those are big, potentially hazardous and life-threatening problems. We’ve often discussed the ramifications of distracted driving — crashes linked to it killed nearly 3,200 people last year — and more distracted walkers are tumbling into emergency rooms.

On the surface, people seem to understand this. Eighty-four percent in the State Farm survey said they’d support a ban on any physical contact with a phone and 61 percent favored banning the use of a smartphone for any reason while driving.

Here’s the disconnect: People also are convinced “it’s the other guys (or gals)” who are the problem, not themselves.

Seventy-five percent of respondents in the surgeons’ survey said as much, and only 38 percent ’fessed up to being among the zoned-out smartphone zombies walking the street. Despite the support for stricter regulations in the State Farm poll, only 63 percent favored using technology to block drivers from text messaging and just 44 percent supported the same approach for phone calls. And here’s the jaw-dropper: Just 53 percent in the State Farm poll said a distracted driver who causes a fatal accident should go to prison, and only 23 percent said that driver’s license should be revoked.

Nearly two-thirds of American adults own smartphones, according to the Pew Research Council. That trend is seen in all gender, age, ethnic, education, income and residency demographics.

They are wonderful, useful gadgets that have transformed and revolutionized the world, including our business. They also are easy to get lost in and addicted to. The latter is tough talk, but the definition fits.

The poll numbers — and accompanying comments about the ability to multitask and the need to be perpetually productive — seem to indicate a resignation to and acceptance of those risks. That’s not a good thing, and we’ll echo what a spokesman for the surgeon’s group said. Every now and then, put your gadget away and focus on your surroundings. Cyberspace is wonderful, but so is the real world.

Online – www.gadsdentimes.com