Reach for the Die

By Scott LaFee

March 13, 2019 5 min read

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and disabilities among drivers 15 to 20 years old. A new study reports that teens who reach for objects while driving, such as food or makeup, increase their risk of crashing nearly seven times.

The National Institutes of Health study also found that teen drivers who manually dial, text or browse the web on a cellphone double their risk of getting into an accident.

Researchers followed 82 newly licensed teen drivers in Virginia over a one-year period, equipping their vehicles with cameras and GPS technology to track the driver's activity and environments. After one year, 43 of the drivers had not experienced a crash, while 25 had one crash and 14 had two or more crashes. Using six-second videos of driver behavior prior to a crash, researchers calculated that for every second that a teen's eyes were off the road, the risk of a crash increased by 28 percent — regardless of the type of distraction. Reaching for something exacerbated risk because it took teens' hands off the wheel, too.

"Teenage drivers are so comfortable with mobile devices that they tend to overestimate their ability to multitask while driving," said study author Bruce Simons-Morton.

Body of Knowledge

A loss of only 1 to 2 percent of body water can impair cognitive performance, according to studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Get Me That, Stat!

After one year in the U.S., just 8 percent of immigrants are obese, but among those who have lived in the U.S. for 15 years, the obesity rate is 19 percent, according to a 2004 study.

Stories for the Waiting Room

Chia seeds don't just make good pets. The seeds absorb 30 times their weight in water and can provide the body with slow-release hydration, especially during long bouts of physical activity in high heat and humidity.

Doc Talk

Fasciculation: those sudden flutters under the skin from a small bundle of muscle fibers spontaneously contracting (from the Latin "fasciculus," meaning little bundle).

Phobia of the Week

Optophobia: fear of opening one's eyes (literally).


"I've been asked a lot for my view on American health care. Well, 'it would be a good idea,' to quote Gandhi." — American medical anthropologist Paul Farmer

Ig Nobel Apprised

The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate achievements that make people laugh and then think — looks at real science that are hard to take seriously and even harder to ignore.

In 2007, the Ig Nobel Prize in nutrition went to Brian Wansink of Cornell University for a study in which participants partook of a self-refilling bottomless bowl of soup. The goal was to determine to what degree visual cues about how much food was on a plate or bowl affected intake. The hypothesis was that if consumers didn't see how much they had eaten, they would eat more, despite feelings of satiety. The bottomless bowl consumers — who did not know the bowl was self-refilling — ate 73 percent more, but did not think so, nor did they perceive themselves as more sated than those who ate from normal bowls.


Q: What percentage of the average person's waking hours are spent thinking about something other than what they're doing?

a) 10 percent

b) 29 percent

c) 33 percent

d) 47 percent

A: d) 47 percent. According to researchers at Harvard University, our minds wander and become distracted by other thoughts and things almost half of the time we are conscious.

Medical Myths

A gleaming white smile doesn't necessarily indicate healthier teeth. The hue of our chompers is influenced in part by genes and age, combined with stains from smoking, eating, drinking and taking certain medications. These may or may not have any relevance to your underlying dental health. Also, as you get older, your teeth often become yellower as the enamel begins to wear away, exposing the dentine beneath. Abrasive toothpastes and chemicals, some intended to whiten teeth, can accelerate this process. Finally, it turns out that some kinds of staining, notably a sort of black stain caused by a particular kind of dental plaque, may protect against tooth decay.


"I will not be right back after this message." — TV talk show host and entertainer Merv Griffin (1925-2007)

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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