While most people have heard about how dangerous it can be to drink and drive, few are aware of the risks posed by eating while driving. Though drivers are not chemically impaired, the distraction involved in eating behind the wheel is enough to dramatically increase the chance of being involved in an accident.
A recent article by CBS News found that when a motorist is eating while driving his or her chance of being involved in a car accident increases by 80 percent. The problem is that when a person consumes food while driving it often requires the use of at least one hand, sometimes two. For example, if a person spills food their first instinct is to let go of the wheel and clean up the mess. This can lead to disaster on busy interstates that are already crowded with vehicles.
In fact, experts say that it’s the worry of dripping that is actually more dangerous than the eating itself. Experts who have studied car accident reports say that many food-related collisions occur during the morning commute when workers are trying to wolf down breakfast before getting to the office. When something spills, drivers are quick to try and clean up the mess to avoid staining their work clothes, something that causes them to pull their attention off the road.
As a result, some safety experts say that drivers need to especially avoid consuming substances that are most likely to spill or drip. This means things like coffee, soup or yogurt should be avoided while driving. Those driving a stick shift vehicle need to be even more careful when considering eating while driving given that one hand is needed to hold the food and another for shifting, leaving no hands for steering. Some experts say that driving a manual transmission vehicle while eating can double your chance of being in an accident.
Another issue is that unlike other distracting activities such as drinking and driving or texting and driving, there is nothing illegal about eating and driving. Motorists often think that because there’s no law preventing them from eating that it must not be risky. However, experts warn that just because it isn’t illegal doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous.
A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2006 found that 80 percent of all car crashes involve some kind of distraction. The survey found that “eating on the run” was one of the most commonly mentioned distractions by motorists. The NHTSA said that distracted driving accidents, including those involving drivers eating behind the wheel, typically involve rear-end collisions. To help reduce your odds of being involved in a potentially deadly accident, be sure to avoid eating anything while operating a motor vehicle. The food can wait until you arrive at your destination, whether it’s work or home. No amount of convenience is worth the risk.