Stopping the texting habit can be really hard. We’re glued to our phones seemingly 24/7, and the alerts, dings, and chimes make them irresistible even when we’re behind the wheel.

This dangerous yet pervasive habit is causing some sobering statistics: 1.6 million crashes each year, with almost 390,000 injuries and more than 2,800 deaths.

Technology’s not going away anytime soon and self-driving cars are still off in the future – so how do we stop texting? Let’s look to psychology for some guidance – specifically, to some mental hacks to kick a habit.

 

How Habits Form

For a habit to become ingrained, a “habit loop” must first become established. This loop has 3 elements:

  1. This is the trigger that tells your brain to do something, like grabbing the phone when you hear a text chime. It’s often automatic—we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
  2. This is the behavior or action itself. Here, it’s picking up the phone and typing out a text reply.
  3. If there’s a reward after the behavior, it strengthens the habit loop. In this case, that might be an actual or anticipated reply, or the satisfaction of sending off that text that you keep meaning to send.

No wonder habits are so “sticky”—each step reinforces the next. Understanding how it works in your life is key to breaking the habit and forming a new one. It just takes a little self-awareness and a commitment to change.

 

Breaking the Habit Loop

By disrupting one or more components of the loop, you can transition to a life of text-free driving.

1.Review Your Cues: Figure out what’s making you reach for your phone.

      • If you can’t ignore the sound alerts, turn your phone to silent and stash it out of sight (or better yet, out of reach).
      • Install an app that silences your phone while you’re driving. These apps detect when your car is in motion and automatically silence it for the duration. Options include Not Disturb While Driving (iphones), Driving Detective for Android, or Google’s Android Auto.
      • If your cue is boredom, practice mindfulness (a great skill for all aspects of life).

 

2. Refresh Your Routine: A few tweaks could make a big difference.

      • Send texts before you leave, then put away the phone.
      • If you have a passenger with you, have them be your thumbs.
      • Sign off a conversation with X or #X, which means you’re driving.
      • Let your 5 closest contacts know you’re changing it up. Most of our communications are just with them.

 

3. Reframe Your Rewards: Really contemplate the risks of texting while driving.

      • Think back to a texting close call. Think through the worst-case scenario. Now write it down and keep it in plain view in your car. Read it every time you get in.
      • Whenever you feel a temptation to reach for your phone, think of who would be devastated if you were to crash while texting.
      • When not reaching for your phone, embrace the feeling of not being anxious and distracted.

 

Want to really kickstart your commitment? Sign The National Safety Council’s Just Drive pledge.. If you have young drivers at home, team up, and make the commitment together (and get safe driving tips for them here).

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty. We specialize in providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

 

 

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