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Don't try these on the highway: really distracting driving behaviors

Just about everybody does something else while they're driving. In a study performed by the University of North Carolina for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers put surveillance cameras in the cars of 70 volunteers and tracked what drivers did while they were behind the wheel -- besides drive, that is.

The top activity, at 97.1 percent, was reaching or leaning over to find things, followed closely by fiddling with the radio.

After that came talking to other people in the car, which was reported separately from "dealing with passengers" (i.e., threatening to turn the car around and go home). Just over 71 percent of the volunteers ate or drank while driving.

Then they moved into the more unsettling activities: 45.7 percent participated in "grooming" activities, such as brushing their hair, applying make-up or shaving, and 40 percent read or wrote while driving.

Only 30 percent of the volunteers talked on a cell phone while driving; 7.1 percent smoked.

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While all of these things are riveting, decided to conduct its own completely unscientific study, consisting entirely of asking people we knew to pass along stupid driving behaviors they had witnessed. In rare instances, the person reporting the behavior admitted to being the person who had engaged in it. does not condone or endorse driving while performing any of these activities, all of which, for the record, are really bad ideas.

The reported activities were:

  • Breastfeeding (resulting in conviction for multiple traffic violations)
  • Changing a baby's diaper
  • Painting toenails
  • Plucking hair from an upper lip (while talking on a cell phone)
  • Taking pictures
  • Shaving with a non-electric razor
  • Applying false eyelashes
  • Holding a cup of hot coffee between the thighs
  • Brewing coffee with the cigarette lighter plug
  • Changing clothes
  • Changing seats with a passenger
  • Sleeping
  • Putting hot sauce on a breakfast taco
  • Grooming a pet
  • Kissing
  • Giving or receiving to-remain-undescribed sexual favors
  • Beating up or defending oneself from a passenger
  • Doing homework
  • Typing on a laptop computer
  • Brushing teeth
  • Handing roses to drivers of adjacent vehicles (long story involving college coeds on a road trip)
  • Trying to blow up an inflatable shark-shaped raft (long story involving a guilty parent late to a play date)

Pat Curry is a contributing editor based in Georgia.

-- Posted: Sept. 23, 2003

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