STOP! You, in the blue sedan. Fingers where we can see them. We know what you’ve been doing.
Well, not us. But researchers from the University of Nottingham have a pretty good — if gross — guess.
New research finds that drivers touch their face an average of 26 times per hour.
And by touching, they mean it all: Picking, scratching and rubbing. In the study, researchers watched 31 hours of archived video footage from on-road driving studies. They noticed that drivers touched mucous membranes, a.k.a. their lips, nostrils and eyes, on almost half of the occasions — or about once every five minutes.
But wait — it gets worse.
The most common instruments used were fingertips and thumbs, which also happen to be the areas that most of us miss when it comes to washing our hands. And yes, most of us. The study found no differences in face-touching rates between those of different genders or ages.
Importantly, study participants knew they were being observed. So even though the touching observed was mindless, researchers posit that people are probably even more inclined to get physical with their faces when they don’t think their behaviors are being documented for a study. We’re talking nose picking, ear cleaning and other sundry habits you may not even realize you have.
And, in the age of rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, poor hygiene in shared vehicles could present a transmission problem — for drivers and passengers alike.
So here you have it: The results are in. People have a tendency to be gross. Researchers point out this is a great reason to double down on thorough handwashing, and keep in mind that seatbelts prevent accidents — but not germs.