One form of distracted driving that’s important to avoid is eating while driving. Accidents involving distracted driving while texting or using other handheld devices are often discussed. The lesser-discussed act of eating or drinking behind the wheel can be equally dangerous, however.
How Eating While Driving Can Lead to Accidents
If drivers are tempted to eat or drink on the road when in a hurry, whether taking breakfast to go on their morning commute to work or grabbing lunch or dinner on the way home, they can easily get distracted, putting themselves and others at risk.
Eating while driving can lead to distracted driving accidents in a few ways. They can cause visual distractions, as drivers may be required to look down at their food or beverage, particularly when removing or replacing them in to-go containers. Food and beverages are guaranteed to cause manual distractions since drivers must remove their hands from the wheel when eating or drinking. Food and beverages can also lead to cognitive distractions, such as hot coffee causing a burn that leads a driver to remove his or her focus from the road.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), eating or drinking while driving constitutes a “secondary task distraction” that can increase the chances of crashes or near misses by up to 39%.
Avoiding Eating While Driving to Improve Traffic Safety
Eating or drinking while driving can be dangerously distracting, putting drivers and others on the road at risk of serious injury or even death. Regardless of the type of food or beverage consumed, it’s often best to avoid consuming anything while driving to eliminate potential distractions.
If a driver wants to reduce the risk of accidents while on the road, it pays to wait until he or she is safely at home or another destination before eating or drinking. If a person finds himself or herself in a rush or otherwise unable to reach a destination before consuming anything, he or she can find a safe place to park and enjoy the meal before continuing driving. Even if a driver believes he or she has everything under control and foods or drinks aren’t likely to distract him or her, something unexpected such as a spill or other distraction might take attention away from driving.
Why Passengers Should Also Avoid Eating
While it may appear safe for passengers to consume food or drinks since they’re not driving, there are ways eating or drinking while riding can distract drivers. In many cases, the sounds and smells associated with eating on the road can cause cognitive distractions for drivers that may increase the risk of accidents. Passengers may also offer the driver bites of food, which may result in multiple types of distractions.
Avoiding eating or drinking while driving can help make the road a safer place for everyone. If a person wants to eat in the car, which can be particularly tempting while on the road for long stretches of time, pulling over and stopping in a safe location can allow him or her to enjoy a meal while preventing potentially deadly distractions.