There are 3 main types of distractions behind the wheel. When taken separately, they can sometimes lead to accidents. But taken together, disaster can happen.
Those driving distractions are:
- Cognitive—distractions that take your mind off of driving;
- Visual—those that impair your ability to see the road or your car;
- Manual—distractions that cause you to take your hand off the wheel.
Unfortunately, there's an extremely common activity that usually hits all of those categories at once—eating and drinking behind the wheel.
And it's a major safety concern, especially on highways.
Think about it for a second. Eating often involves unwrapping food, steering with one hand, and digging around in bags for loose items. Manually, you're unable to keep both hands firmly on the wheel.
Visually, eating requires you to search for condiments, focus on inserting straws perfectly into drink lids on bumpy roads, and take your eyes off the road for seconds at a time.
Even mentally, the sensation of eating and tasting food means your attention is half on eating, and half on driving.
It's a recipe for disaster—and don't forget about accidentally spilling drinks, especially hot ones.
This is serious business, and these statements are supported by a study released in 2014 which found drivers distracted by eating and drinking are almost 4 times as likely to crash than focused drivers.
Plus, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that eating or drinking behind the wheel makes you 80% more likely to get in an accident.
It's unfortunate because so many people don't really see eating as a distraction—it's perfectly safe and normal to do elsewhere, so why would eating a burger and fries in your car be any different?
Well, turns out replacing a booth at McDonald's with a seat moving at 65 mph makes a big, big difference.
If you must eat while driving, try to avoid the most dangerous (messy) foods, such as anything greasy, sticky or likely to fall apart and make a mess. Coffee and fast food are at the top of this list.
And if you really need to take a bite of that Big Mac, why not pull over for a second instead of endangering everyone on the road around you?
Take a second to slow down and enjoy your food, and you might just save someone's life.