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Eating at the wheel is another driver distraction to be avoided

BUSINESS is never better than when you’re busy. But are there times when you’ve been so busy that you’ve eaten your meals on the fly while driving?

Bad idea, according to road safety charity Brake.

A 2012 study by Leeds University suggests eating which involves unwrapping food at the wheel slows your reactions by up to 44% – that’s more than texting. Another study by Brunel University suggests that eating a meal while driving increases crash risk as much as talking on the ‘phone.

The number of UK drivers eating at the wheel appears to reflect a wider trend towards eating on the move, as lifestyles become ever more fast-paced. And Britons spend more on food eaten on the move than any other nationality in Europe, with our continental neighbours far more likely to take time out to enjoy meals.

A joint survey of 1000 drivers by Brake and Direct Line Insurance revealed:

  • 29% had opened and eaten food at the wheel;
  • 33% had eaten food that was unwrapped and passed to them by a passenger;
  • 2% had narrowly avoided a crash in the past year, having had to brake or swerve to avoid a hazard because they were distracted by food or drink.

Eating at the wheel is part of the broader problem of driver distraction, which is believed to contribute to around one in five crashes (22%). Drivers who attempt to multi-task at the wheel are two to three times more likely to crash, and complex tasks such as unwrapping and eating a burger further increase the risk.

Brake urges all drivers to give the road their full attention and save other activities for regular breaks, which should be at least every two hours on long journeys.

The charity is also calling on government to make traffic policing a national priority to stop multi-tasking drivers putting lives at risk.

Brake says recently introduced on-the-spot fines for ‘careless driving’ offences are a step in the right direction and have already been used on the driver of a commercial vehicle caught driver brushing his teeth while driving. But the charity argues the current £100 fine needs to be much greater to deter this potentially deadly behaviour.


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