While the list of driving distractions seems to grow with each digital innovation, old habits continue to tempt motorists into multi-tasking behavior. Unfortunately, even activities as commonplace as eating and drinking can represent serious distractions.
In a society designed to keep people on the go, drive-thru restaurants and coffee shops seem to be on every corner and at every highway exit. In fact, it is almost unheard-of for a worker to leave home for a shift without a travel mug in his or her hand. Unfortunately, even though the convenience of dining and driving is unquestioned, individuals do not always recognize the hazards they create on the roads.
Dining while driving can be a distraction for many reasons, including:
- Hands off the wheel: To eat or drink while behind the wheel, the driver will need to use one or both hands to secure the item. From holding a travel mug full of coffee to reaching into the passenger seat to select the next potato chip, a hand off the steering wheel means the driver has less control over the vehicle.
- Eyes off the road: Drivers often look either into the passenger seat to select their next bite or look down to the cupholder to grab their drink of choice. This, unfortunately, represents a visual distraction since drivers can no longer see the road or vehicles around them.
- Messy food: While spilling drinks might be commonplace, drivers often forget about other messy bites. From a doughnut’s filling to ketchup on a sandwich, it is not uncommon for drivers to spill a bite leading to a distracting mess. Unfortunately, the driver will instinctively react, looking away from the road to track the spill. This action can continue when the driver reaches into the glove box for napkins and attempts to clean up his or her mess. This can represent visual distractions, manual distractions and cognitive distractions.
While drivers are encouraged to eat or drink when behind the wheel based on the center console, cupholders and prevalence of fast-food drive-thru restaurants, it is wise to avoid such distractions. Distracted driving can lead to devastating motor vehicle collisions resulting in catastrophic injuries.