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Teens are texting less but finding other driving distractions

By this point, distracted driving has become a staple topic of media discussion. As with drunk driving, Americans can't convincingly claim to be ignorant about the dangers of texting or using other electronic devices behind the wheel.

But is the conversation about distracted driving too narrow? Have we unintentionally sent the message that cellphone-related activities are the only dangerous source of distraction? Based on studies of teen driving behavior, the answer would seem to be "yes."

A recent study asked teen drivers about the activities they engage in behind the wheel. Although some 40 percent of respondents admitted to texting, this figure is actually lower than it was in the past. Therefore, we can assume that more teens are getting the message about the dangers of texting while driving.

But here are some of the other behaviors teens are engaging in while driving:

  • Changing clothes
  • Doing homework
  • Putting on makeup
  • Changing contact lenses

At the very least, these activities seem highly impractical while driving. More importantly, however, they are incredibly dangerous and often just as likely (as texting) to lead to a car accident. Other (more common) activities drivers engage in include talking on the phone, adjusting the car stereo and setting/adjusting GPS apps or devices.

Paying attention behind the wheel seems like it should be common sense. To many of us, it is. But teens who have been growing up in an age of multi-tasking may need reminders that for certain activities, uni-tasking is the smart and safe choice. "Getting more things done" and "staying connected" in the car are not valuable enough to warrant risking your life and the life of other drivers.

Source: National Public Radio, "Teens Say They Change Clothes And Do Homework While Driving," Maanvi Singh, March 18, 2015

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