70% of drivers eat and drink while operating a vehicle and 83% of the drivers usually drink a beverage behind the wheel. Taking our meals on our travels is so common that we may not even realize how it impacts our driving ability.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) study, The Impact of Driver Inattention on Near-Crash/Crash Risk, explores how tasks that may seem insignificant to motorists (e.g. eating and drinking) could divert drivers’ attention and potentially cause car accidents.

According to the study, inattentive driving contributes to over 45% of all motor vehicle accidents. The study found participants to be inattentive when they attempted to engage in “secondary tasks” while driving.

Many of us are familiar with the substantial effect that the secondary task of operating a cell phone has on our driving ability. But the study identified another secondary task, that hasn’t received as much media attention, as a potential risk-factor to drivers: eating and drinking while driving.

Eating and drinking while driving causes a similar strain on a driver’s attention as does using a cell phone because both activities cause cognitive, manual and visual distractions. Eating in our cars doesn’t just involve putting food in our mouths—it involves manipulating packaging, inserting straws, and avoiding spills.

These actions aren’t inherently dangerous by themselves, but a driver’s ability to process new information becomes much less efficient when additional demands require their attention. Someone who has just spilled a hot beverage on themselves may not be able to react as quickly to an unexpected hazard in the road.

The study went on further to identify the types of car snacks that require the most attention.

The most risky foods to eat behind the wheel:

  1. Hot beverages and liquids
  2. Messy foods
  3. Drinks without lids
  4. Greasy and salty foods

Cruising through the drive-thru when you’re swamped for time is convenient, but try to wait until you’ve reached your destination to enjoy your meal. If you must eat behind the wheel choose a less complicated car snack than what’s listed above.

If a distracted driver ever injures you, contact the Pisanchyn Law Firm’s accident attorneys for a free consultation at 1-800-444-5309.