Study: Distracted driving rates continue to rise

Nearly 30% of teen drivers say they have changed their clothes while driving

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LONGMEADOW, Mass. (WWLP)– While out on the road you may have seen someone driving with one hand on the wheel and one hand on the cell phone.

Now, a new study in the Journal of Transportation Safety and Security says distracted driving includes many more activities than just texting.

The study’s researchers say anything that takes your attention away from the road for two seconds or longer can increase the risk of an accident from four to 24 times.

The study found that of the three thousand teens surveyed, most of the understood the risk of texting while driving, but few say they see the risk in things like eating, talking to friends, or using a GPS device while driving.

Nearly 30 percent of the teens in the study said they have changed clothes or shoes while driving, and some even worked on homework.

The study also found that teen girls are more likely to use a cell phone while driving and teen boys are more likely to look away from the road while talking to others in the car.

Mohamad Allam, from Holyoke, told 22News he puts his phone where he can’t reach it while driving and is bothered by those who don’t do the same.  “I’m trying to switch lanes and then they’re speeding up and they don’t even realize it.  I’m scared I might get into a car accident.  I have a few friends who got hit, just blind sided a few times,” Allam said.

Sandra Marsian Vice President of AAA Pioneer Valley says parents can help to make sure teens understand the dangers of any kind of distracted driving before they get their license.

“Certainly you want to display good behaviors, give them something to emulate.  Certainly if you’re doing distracted driving techniques, your kids are going to emulate that from a young age moving on,” Marsian told 22News.  She also says to be sure you talk to your teens often about driving safely.

Researchers say the rise in urban traffic and text messaging has brought distractions to an historic level.

Experts believe interactive presentations in a classroom or auditorium can have some ability to raise awareness on the dangers of distracted driving.

Federal estimates show that distracted driving causes roughly 5,000 deaths every year.  Since 2010 is against the law in Massachusetts to send, read, or write text messages while driving.

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