201610.11
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Smartphones and Drivi–Oh, Look! Puppies!

Did you know Arizona is one of only a few states in the nation that does not prohibit texting while driving?  While many states, like neighboring California and Nevada, completely ban the use of hand-held cell phones, Arizona keeps its “wild west” status intact, replacing (or supplementing) six-shooters with cell phones.

At the same time, though, many cities are enforcing “distracted driving” laws, and yes, if you’re holding up traffic at a green light because you’re too engrossed in that super hilarious snapchat video, you can still be ticketed.

Any DUI attorney will tell you that one of the primary uses of the Field Sobriety Tests (Walk-and-Turn and One-Leg Stand) is to examine a driver’s ability to divide attention—in essence, to multitask.  Alcohol impairs your ability to divide your attention between different tasks, such as remembering a series of instructions, maintaining your balance, and performing a physical task.  What does this have to do with cell phones?  Have you noticed how hard it can be to ignore your phone?  Well, research is showing that our increased “multitasking” (driving, checking your text messages, and drinking coffee) is actually putting stress on the brain by forcing it to quickly switch focus from one task to another.  This produces cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that “can overstimulate your brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking.  Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation.”  So the more you try to do at once, the worse you do at everything, and the more difficult it is to get your brain back to focusing on the task in front of you because new baby panda videos!

Distracted Driving is to blame for thousands of fatalities and almost innumerable accidents, and even if Arizona doesn’t prohibit you from using your cell phone, you can still be ticketed for that moment you weave out of your lane because your eyes are off of the road and on your phone.  Arizona’s laws could permit a cell phone user who caused a fatality while texting to be charged with manslaughter—failing to pay attention to the road because you were trying to fix the autocorrect demonstrates your complete disregard for the danger in which you were placing others.

So even though you’re in the wild west, keep your eyes on the road, and if you must send a text message, just ask Siri to help you out.  She never gets it wrong.