While certain activities such as texting or reading a magazine are obvious distractions behind the wheel, other common actions can tempt a driver to remove his or her attention from the road. From the numerous cupholders perfectly situated in a vehicle’s cabin to the sheer number of drive-thru establishments at every exit and popular intersection, it is almost a given that motorists will engage in some level of dining and driving.
Unfortunately, the commonality of this activity often masks its danger.
Eating or drinking while behind the wheel, or what’s commonly referred to as dining and driving, is a common distraction that forces a driver to ignore traffic. While it seems like a simple act – reaching into the center console and taking a sip from a bottle of water – dining and driving is dangerous for numerous reasons. Primarily, this activity often overlaps across numerous types of distractions such as:
- Manual distractions: When a driver takes their hand or hands off the steering wheel, it is called a manual distraction. Reaching into a bag of salty snacks or holding a travel mug of coffee forces a driver to take one or both hands off the steering wheel. If the driver must make a sudden lane change or account for a stopped vehicle, it can be hard when not in control of their own car.
- Visual distractions: Any activity that takes the driver’s eyes off the road is a visual distraction. Looking into the passenger seat to select the next bite of food, for example, or looking into a travel mug to gauge the remining coffee forces the motorist to look away from safety signals, traffic patterns and busy intersections.
- Cognitive distractions: A mentally distracted driver becomes a danger to other motorists. From daydreaming about where to stop for dinner on the way home to considering what the next bite should be, drivers turn their attention from safely navigating the vehicle to this distracting task.
The problem is that dining and driving often overlaps two or even all three categories of distraction. From thinking about taking a bite, to looking over to the food, to taking a hand off the steering wheel to grab some lunch, eating and drinking behind the wheel quickly becomes a devastating habit.
Distracted drivers can cause serious collisions on city streets and highways. Crashes can lead to broken bones, head trauma, paralysis and amputation.