Drivers who eat and drink at the wheel are twice as likely to crash, and the risk may be even higher if the food is hot, messy or you have to unwrap it yourself.
A new survey by Brake, the road safety charity, and Direct Line found that a third of drivers sometimes eat food behind the wheel. Just over a quarter have unwrapped and eaten the food themselves and a third admitted to eating food someone else had unwrapped for them.
Additionally, one in ten of the drivers who responded said they had been involved in a near miss – defined as having to suddenly break or swerve to avoid a hazard – because they were distracted by eating food.
“In the fast-paced world we live in, it is sometimes tempting to eat on the go,” Brake’s Alice Bailey said. “But drivers who are distracted by something else, even food, significantly increase their risk of causing a crash. If you’re hungry, you probably need to take a short break to eat and recuperate before continuing your journey.”
Eating and drinking while driving diverts attention away from driving, increasing reaction times by up to 44%, which means that drivers respond to hazards much more slowly. It also causes physical distraction, as at least one hand is off the wheel holding the food or drink.
While is not against to law to eat while driving, it can become a crime if a person’s driving becomes distracted because they are unwrapping food or eating it. Driving without due care and attention or careless driving is a criminal offence, whatever the distraction. The worst offenders, according to the survey, are drivers aged 25-34.