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What does teen fashion have to do with safe driving?

As an adult driver, you should be alarmed -- but not overly surprised -- to see a young motorist in front of you changing lanes and clothes at the same time.

Yes, you read that sentence correctly. A recent National Public Radio article discussing dangerous driving behaviors cites study findings indicating that about 27 percent of teen drivers "sometimes change clothes and shoes while driving."

Talk about questionable multitasking.

If diverted attention mars an acute focus on a centrally important goal in a non-driving context (for example, watching television while studying for a test), imagine the dumbing down that is occurring when a motorist is changing a shirt or dress while negotiating traffic on a busy New York interstate.

Although many teens might feel indestructible out on the road, relevant statistics quickly belie any such belief as illusion.

And tragic illusion, at that: Distracted motoring is, quite literally, a driving catalyst in roadway crashes, with empirical evidence from myriad studies showing that teen drivers are often especially susceptible to wavering attention.

The lead author of the recent university study presenting the alarming dressing-while-driving results says that, notwithstanding the study's dismal conclusions, there is still good news to report in the realm of teen driving.

To wit: Texting while driving seems to be a progressively limited activity for young motorists, who are reportedly being positively influenced by safety awareness campaigns.

Some safety advocates might say, though, that where teen drivers are concerned, the reduction of one distracting activity is, well, just that: an improvement in but one of many troublesome areas.

That certainly seems borne out by the above-cited study focused on clothing changes, which also notes other teen-reported behind-the-wheel activities such as doing homework, applying makeup and changing contact lenses.

There are a lot of distractions out on the road, and a lot of teen drivers who seem almost mesmerized by them.

That has always been the case, and will doubtlessly remain so in the future.

That reality makes unflagging educational efforts -- by safety regulators, driving instructors, school officials, police officers and, of course, parents -- of vital importance in promoting safe driving outcomes for the nation's youngest drivers.

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