Eating and driving: an unacknowledged danger?

Could eating behind the wheel be more dangerous than drinking and driving?
Written by Channtal Fleischfresser, Contributor

We're all aware of the perils of drinking and driving, as well as the dangers of texting behind the wheel. But what about eating? Far from being frowned upon, the entire drive-thru industry caters to the behavior.

But a recent study examining driver reaction times found that response times of drivers eating behind the wheel increased by 44 percent, while drivers drinking from a bottle or can behind the wheel saw response times increase by 22 percent. By comparison, drivers texting while driving saw a 37 percent increase in response times, and people driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 experienced 12.5 percent increases.

The study, which controlled conditions using a driving simulator, also found that drivers drinking while driving were 18 percent more likely to need to make corrections in their steering in order to stay within their lane. According to the researchers, the multitasking required from having to unwrap food or drink from a bottle diverted the driver's attention from steering the car.

‘It is widely accepted that the distraction of talking on a hand-held mobile phone may increase accident risk' said Prof. Samantha Jamson from the University of Leeds. ‘Other activities that involve taking one hand off the wheel, such as eating or drinking, may also cause distraction, particularly when drivers take their eyes off the road in order to reach for or unwrap items,’ she added.

That eating behind the wheel would cause distraction seems like common sense. But how many of us have had a near-miss while munching on a sandwich and a soda? Considering the warnings against texting and driving, not to mention driving after consuming alcohol, should we not be more vigilant about eating behind the wheel?

Photo: Flickr/junkmonkey

via [Left Lane News]

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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