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Surprising Science

Teens Report Doing Homework, Changing Clothes While Behind the Wheel

The dangers of texting and driving are well-known, but teens need to understand that engaging in any distractions while driving poses risks.

Texting and driving isn’t the only distraction that can lead teens, or anyone for that matter, to disaster. Campaigns dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of texting and driving have helped make a dent, according to a study published in the Journal of Transportation Safety and Security. But what about all the other distractions? Researchers have found that there are plenty of other things teens can occupy themselves with that don’t include keeping their eyes on the road.

David Hurwitz, an assistant professor of transportation engineering at Oregon State University, led the study where he and his team conducted a survey to find out what teens are doing behind the wheel (provided they answered honestly). What his team found was 27 percent admitted to changing clothes while driving, as well as some cases of participants admitting to putting on makeup and doing homework.

In an interview with NPR, Hurwitz talked about his team’s reaction to some of the findings:

“We were pretty surprised at the changing clothes bit. Teens are busy, I guess.”

The good news is, the campaigns to stop teens from texting and driving have made an impact, according to the surveys. Hurwitz reported that only 40 percent of teens admitted to texting behind the wheel, which is still a lot, but far fewer than what had been reported in earlier studies.

“But there are all sorts of other distractions and teens have no awareness of the risks.”

Something as simple as adjusting the radio or GPS, or talking on the phone can be just as distracting. It only takes a moment. So, as part of their research, Hurwitz asked the teen participants from the survey to take an interactive course to show them how dangerous distracted driving can be. In one scenario, the researchers asked the teens to try and write down a series of numbers while talking on the phone. The multitasking exercise proved quite difficult.

“This was just a scenario to demonstrate that having a distraction can really prevent you from doing basic tasks.”

This study raises awareness that texting and driving shouldn’t be the only focus of these ad campaigns, and should include distracted driving as a whole.

Read more at NPR.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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