Many states, including Maryland, have laws prohibiting texting and using a handheld cell phone while driving. But the problems of distracted driving, which killed over 200 people in Maryland in 2011, go beyond the use of electronic devices, especially for teens. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Transportation Safety and Security, 27 percent of teens reported that they sometimes change their clothes and shoes while driving. Other behind-the-wheel activities included changing contact lenses, doing homework or putting on makeup.
Although 40 percent of teens in the study also admitted to texting while driving, this figure is lower than in previous studies, suggesting that texting awareness campaigns may be working. The study asked teens to provide information about their driving habits and then to participate in a driver's education class that simulated the risks and difficulties of multitasking behind the wheel. After taking the short class, students were somewhat better at recognizing the risks of distracted driving, suggesting that classroom interventions may be helpful in addressing this problem. Other studies show that parents also play an important role in encouraging teen driving safety.