April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. To educate others on the woes of distracted driving, all month long we’ll be highlighting the “seven deadly sins of distracted driving” – seven things that can have a profoundly dangerous effect on your driving ability.
While phone use may be the “sexiest” distracted driving issue on everyone’s minds lately, the sin of gluttony behind the wheel is just as deadly – and has been a major issue for a considerably longer time.
Indeed, eating and drinking while driving just doesn’t get mentioned as much, thanks to the prevalence of the smartphone. However, it’s more than worth mentioning – eating while driving is arguably as dangerous, if not more, than using a phone.
The Hard Data
Munching on a snack while driving is something most drivers do regularly – an Exxon-Mobil study found that 70% of drivers eat and 83% drink beverages while they’re behind the wheel. However, it’s an action that can prove fatal.
Like phone use while driving, eating and drinking falls under all three types of distracted driving:
- Manual: Those which require you to take your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: Actions which take your mind and focus away from driving
- Visual: Distractions which impede your vision, or force you to look away from the road
Food and/or drink requires you to take your hands off the wheel, focus on what you’re consuming, and, in certain cases, take your eyes off the road to look at what you’re eating. Similar to phone use, it’s one of the most dangerous distractions while you’re behind the wheel.
And because it’s been such a huge problem for such a long time, there is a laundry list of data out there that highlights just how unsafe it can be:
- A 2012 study found that reaction times were 44% slower on the road when eating and 22% slower when drinking. By contrast, reaction times for those texting while driving were 37.4% slower.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that eating while driving can increase your chances of an accident by 80%.
- Drivers drinking a beverage are 18% more likely to experience less-than-ideal lane control.
- According to a study by Lytx, drivers who are eating and/or drinking are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a collision.
Stow the Snacks
Beyond hard facts, we all have some experiences with the difficulties or eating and drinking while driving – our coffee-stained blouses and mustard-stained slacks are a testament to that.
Save all of your snacks for before or after driving – and take your lunch breaks when you’re stationary. There’s really no reason to eat while you’re on the road, even if you’re in a rush.
If you need your cup of joe to start the day, drink a cup before you head out on the road. The caffeine from coffee takes about 15 minutes or so to take an effect on you anyway – so this way, you’ll be awake and alert by the time you reach your office.
You may end up a little hungry, or a little grumpy from the lack of caffeine, but you’ll ultimately be safe – and that’s all that matters.