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Driving distractions go far beyond texting

Driving distractions go far beyond texting

Driving to work this week, one of our editors observed a woman curling her eye lashes while behind the wheel. It sounds almost cliché, but this classic scene is just one of many types of distractions that make driving dangerous.

In 2011, government statistics show, 10 percent of crashes that resulted in injury were affected by driver distraction. For drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent of the distracted drivers were fiddling with their cell phones, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Another startling statistic: 660,000 drivers at any given daylight moment are using cell phones or other electronic devices while driving. (Read our special report “Crash Course on Car Safety.”)

The numbers reveal the frightening reality of modern distractions, but the findings aren’t surprising. We see it daily—drivers putting their need to stay connected above the safety of fellow motorists. But, there are many other hazards, as we were reminded when we recently asked our Facebook followers to share the most dangerous distractions they have witnessed. The responses were strikingly diverse, with common themes of eating, reading, and shaving. Plus, there were a few bizarre anecdotes. (Read “The Danger in the Next Lane.”)

Below are a few of the more disturbing distractions, each reported multiple times:
—Applying makeup
—Breast feeding
—Brushing teeth, flossing
—Changing clothes
—Changing a diaper
—Dog in the lap
—Eating cereal with milk
—Eating spaghetti or noodles
—Fingernail painting
—Holding a baby
—Playing a musical instrument
—Watching video

And the top submission: “The most dangerous distraction is having my wife in the car supervising every millimeter of the trip.”

One commenter points out that driving would be safer if people would simply tend to their personal grooming at home. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

Another summed it up well: “Way too many people drive with one hand and only half their mind on the road.” The statistics tell a disturbing tale, but this bit of common sense should be enough of a wake-up call for those drivers who are tempted to multitask behind the wheel.

Have you witnessed other crazy distractions? If so, add your observations to our wall at facebook.com/consumerreports.org.

Drive safe, so you don’t become someone else’s bad example.

Jeff Bartlett

Learn more about car safety in our guide to distracted driving.

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

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