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The dangers of eating while driving

Recent years have seen a greater emphasis placed in avoiding distracted driving (with a good deal of that placed on avoiding cell phone use while behind the wheel). There are, however, a number of other types of driving distractions that may be even more prevalent (and thus potentially more dangerous) than using a cell phone.

Chief among these is eating while driving, which (according to information shared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) may play a role in almost 80% of all car accidents.

An alarmingly common distraction

Most may not consider eating to be a distraction (given that it is such a natural action). Indeed, some might even say society encourages it (with vehicles including cupholders in their designs and restaurants providing meals through drive-thru windows). Yet these may simply be contributing to drivers becoming complacent behind the wheel, believing that the combination of their superior driving skills and attuned reflexes allow them to engage in minor activities while driving. Yet statistics suggest that this is a fallacy. Information collected through a joint research effort between the Auto Alliance and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons shows that car accidents are 3.6 times more common with people who eat while driving than with those who do not.

The anatomy of a driving distraction

What accounts for these alarming figures? One need only to consider that actions involved with eating behind the wheel to understand why. Eating requires that a person remove both their attention and their vision from the road to concentrate on what they are eating, and to release the steering wheel (with at least one hand) to grasp it. Cumulatively these actions can take one’s focus off the road (and impede their reaction time) long enough to place themselves and others around them in a dangerous situation.