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Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 653

One way that Matt Richtel explains exactly how and why texting and driving is both dangerous and common is through the study of both technology and how humans process it. He writes:

Then, around World War II, modern attention science was born, also prompted by people's relationships to technology. A...

(The entire section contains 653 words.)

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One way that Matt Richtel explains exactly how and why texting and driving is both dangerous and common is through the study of both technology and how humans process it. He writes:

Then, around World War II, modern attention science was born, also prompted by people's relationships to technology. A generation of pioneering researchers tried to figure out how much technology pilots could handle in the cockpit, and tried to measure when they became overloaded, and why. Or why radar operators, looking at cutting-edge computer displays, were sometimes unable to keep up with the blips that showed Nazi planes.

Electronic technology wasn't used as commonly at that point, but it quickly moved from military applications to consumer use. That meant that the fundamental way people communicated and did tasks changed. Technology became as fundamental to daily life as driving.

According to some researchers, this integration of technology into modern life changed an entire generation. For example:

Dr. Greenfield, predictably, goes further. He deems young people who are raised on digital devices "Generation D." "They're so amped up on dopamine that when it's not firing, they feel dull, dead," he says. And that means they need to move on to the next thing, quickly, rather than staying with something.

This is one explanation for the prevalence of texting and driving. Driving isn't stimulating enough, and people don't want to wait to communicate more. They text while they drive to kill two birds with one stone—but sometimes this leads to literal deaths.

The center point of Richtel's book is the case of Reggie Shaw, who killed two men when he crashed his car into them as he was texting his girlfriend. Richtel says:

Broadly, his story, and that of others around him, became an era-defining lesson in how people can awaken from tragedy, confront reality, address even smaller daily dissonance, and use their experiences to make life better for themselves and the people around them. And their journey showed how we might come to terms with the mixed blessing of technology. For all the gifts of computer technology, if its power goes underappreciated, it can hijack the brain.

Although Reggie first denied texting and driving, eventually, the truth came out and Reggie himself was changed. While Richtel was writing the book, Reggie was speaking out against texting and driving in public. He has had a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that his actions caused the deaths of two innocent men. Another factor was that he originally lied about texting. Richtel writes:

"I was driving east toward Logan." Reggie then wrote in a statement with neat-enough letters that lean slightly left. "My car pulled to the left and I met another car in the middle. We clipped each other, and he spun out behind me. The truck and trailer behind me then T-boned him and they ended in a ditch."

That might have been the end of it except that his story didn't completely add up. The state trooper was confused about how it was possible for Reggie to hydroplane. Richtel says:

Reggie's SUV must have weighed four thousand pounds. It wouldn't hydroplane unless it was going one hundred miles an hour. The witness, Kaiserman, said they were going fifty-five miles an hour, the speed limit. Plus, of no small significance, Kaiserman said he'd seen the Chevy swerve several times before the crash.

As they spent time together, the state trooper also noticed that Reggie was able to text with one hand and did so regularly. Ultimately, Reggie's story unfolds along a lot of data and studies cited by the author. He explains that distracted driving can be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. He says:

The texting driver faces a sixfold crash risk, whereas a driver talking on the phone faced a four-times increase in likelihood of a crash, which he said was roughly equivalent to someone who is legally drunk.

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