Distracted driving is a huge contributor to car accidents, injuries, property damage, and death on America’s streets. One of the most significant factors causing this is drinking or eating while driving.
When consuming food, the driver’s eyes divert from the road and to their hands, the food, the drink, napkins, or condiments.
It also forces drivers to take their hands from the wheel to hold or retrieve their food. Frequently, the driver also has to drive with compromised control and dexterity as they juggle their food and drink, while trying to remain in control of the vehicle.
Many things can distract a driver while speeding down the road. Changing radio stations, applying makeup and lipstick, texting, checking GPS on a cell phone, are just a few distractions. Food and drink are different levels of distraction than most.
Everyone feels they are a multitasker, but this is not true. Multitasking is a false concept because the brain can only handle one task before switching to another.
When a person believes they are concentrating on two different tasks, their brain is just switching focus back and forth. They also experience a slowdown in focus because of this constant diversion.
Driving down a street at forty miles an hour, picking up a burger, unwrapping it with one hand, juggling it while doing so and not spilling the contents, using your other hand to assist in the failed unwrapping, using your elbow to control the vehicle’s directions, successfully doing the unwrapping, and now taking a bite completes the complicated tasks.
The driver believes they have paid attention to the road as they handled their food, but they have failed. They were lucky.
A child runs from between two cars in front of the oncoming vehicle, and the driver can’t react properly. Their hands are full of food, their body is not contacting the wheel, they are not in control of the car; it diverts their attention from the road, only somewhat focused on their peripheral vision.
The driver, faced with an emergency, would need to dispose of the food, replace their hands on the wheel, assess the critical problem, decide on a course of action, and commit that action. All of this, often, within a few seconds of reaction time.
Should Food and Drink Consumption While Driving Be Illegal?
Distraction while driving can cause accidents, injuries, and death. Texting while driving is illegal in most of the United States, driving while drinking or eating food is technically not illegal.
If an accident occurs because of a driver’s distracted driving, the driver can be held responsible.
Truck drivers spend almost all their time behind the wheel of their rig. This often means eating, drinking, and urinating as they drive on the road. While driving a car or van is dangerous when distracted, trying to control a vehicle dozens of tons in weight is a magnitude greater in danger.
Losing track of road risks and control of a forty ton vehicle reduces reaction time to almost nothing. Add on the extended distraction of spilling a container of chili on the dash, a cup of coffee in the driver’s lap, or knocking over a jug of urine on the floor of the truck, and you have the formula for a horribly bad day.
If you’re traveling a long distance and need to eat or drink, pull over. Stay in the parking lot after hitting the drive-thru. Travel with a companion and switch off. Otherwise, you may need to secure a car accident attorney quickly.