When you hear people talking about distracted driving, you’ll probably imagine someone texting on their phone or making a phone call. You might think of someone reading an email or changing their radio station.
What many people don’t realize is that eating behind the wheel is also dangerous. Eating while driving is a common form of distracted driving and presents serious safety risks to people in the United States and elsewhere.
Eating combines the three kinds of distractions, visual, cognitive and manual, which means that the likelihood of a collision increases significantly.
How does eating behind the wheel distract you?
Eating behind the wheel distracts you in a few ways. Visually, you need to look for the food. You may have to look away from the road to unwrap it or see what you’ve picked up.
Manually, you need to physically pick up what you plan to eat or drink. This takes at least one of your hands off the wheel. If you happen to spill a drink or food, then you may be manually, visually and cognitively distracted as you attempt to clean it up.
Cognitively, you’re distracted by food because you’re going to think about what you’re eating and the taste. You’ll be thinking about unwrapping food items or how to set your cup back into the cup holder when you’re done with it.
The statistics are shocking: Eating behind the wheel is a hazard
A study by Lytx in 2014 states that drivers who eat behind the wheel are approximately 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers who don’t eat or drink while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that eating or drinking when driving increases the risk of a near-miss by an estimated 39%.
Don’t eat or drink behind the wheel if you want to be safe
It’s a fact that eating or drinking behind the wheel is a danger to yourself and others. If you have to eat or drink, then you should pull over to the side of the road, find a parking spot or find a rest stop. If you can, take the time to go into the restaurant or fast-food stop to eat instead of going through the drive-through window.
By being cautious, you can avoid the increased risk of a car crash that comes with eating or drinking behind the wheel and be more likely to get home safely.