When we think of distracted driving, we often think of someone using a cell phone, usually to text, behind the wheel. But did you know that eating while driving can be just as dangerous as any other type of driving distraction? What’s more, certain foods are widely considered more dangerous to consume behind the wheel than others.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Insurance.com, and multiple other sources, the number one most dangerous thing to eat while driving is actually something you drink: hot coffee. That’s right, your morning cup of jo is not only giving you a caffeine boost; it’s also making your commute riskier. Coffee is hot and, even in a to-go cup with a lid, it can spill. Plus, holding your coffee in one hand means you’ve only got one hand on the wheel, which reduces your ability to safely control your car.
But the real reason hot coffee is rated as the most dangerous thing to consume while driving is because of how common it is. Pretty much everyone is guilty of drinking a cup of coffee on their way to work or while out running errands at some point, and we rarely think twice about it. But the NHTSA reports that people who eat or drink non-alcoholic beverages while driving have an 80% increased risk of being involved in an accident, and approximately 65% of “near-miss” collisions result from motorists who are distracted by foods or drinks.
Other Dangerous Foods to Consume Behind the Wheel
To be clear, eating or drinking any food or beverage while driving is dangerous. If possible, you should always avoid driving while distracted, including while eating. That being said, some foods could put you at a greater risk of being in an accident.
In addition to coffee, some of the most dangerous foods and beverages to consume while driving include:
- Hot Liquids: Consuming any hot liquid while driving is a bad idea. Soups, hot coffee, and other similar foods and beverages can easily spill, causing a huge mess and even leaving you with serious burn injuries. Even worse, you could easily become distracted trying to eat soup or clean up a spill, causing you to crash into another motorist or object along the roadway.
- Fast Food: Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, sandwiches, and similar items are some of the most commonly consumed foods behind the wheel thanks in large part to the prevalence of fast food and drive-thru establishments. They are also some of the most dangerous, as they essentially make it necessary to keep one hand off the steering wheel.
- Tacos: Anyone who’s ever bitten into a taco knows how messy they can be. Drivers can become distracted cleaning up spills and may even take both hands off the wheel. A better idea: wait until you get to your destination to dig in.
- Breakfast Items: Breakfast sandwiches, hash browns, donuts, and other breakfast foods can be greasy, meaning drivers might be more focused on reaching for napkins and attempting to clean up than on the road ahead.
- Two-Handed Foods: Any food (or beverage) that necessitates the use of both hands should never be consumed behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. This includes things like barbecue, chicken wings, and anything that calls for condiments or utensils.
- Juicy Foods: Juicy fruit—like watermelon, peaches, and plums—as well as other juicy fruits can be messy and distracting. Avoid eating any of these items when operating a motor vehicle.
In short, eating any food or drinking any beverage can be very distracting, especially when you should be focused on the road. It is always a good idea to wait to eat until you have safely parked or have arrived at your destination.
What Makes Eating (and Drinking) While Driving So Dangerous?
Studies have shown time and time again that distracted driving is incredibly dangerous. In fact, some research has even concluded that distracted driving is as dangerous—if not more dangerous—than drunk driving.
Why is distracted driving so dangerous? Because drivers who aren’t paying attention to the road are less likely to be able to react to changing traffic conditions in time to avoid a collision. Someone who isn’t looking at the road or who has one (or both) hands off the wheel won’t see that traffic is slowing or stopped ahead, won’t be able to yield to someone else who has the right of way, won’t be able to turn or merge safely, etc.
Consuming foods and beverages while driving is driving distracted. At best, a driver may have just one hand on the steering wheel. At worst, they could be looking down, taking both hands off the wheel, or reaching over to grab a food item or drink. All of these things are distractions themselves, but they become even more dangerous when the driver’s attention wanders from the road to the thing they are most focused on: eating.
Is Eating While Driving Illegal?
While eating or drinking a non-alcoholic beverage while driving may not be explicitly illegal, many states have laws prohibiting distracted and/or dangerous driving. In some cases, eating or drinking behind the wheel may fall under this classification.
Even when a driver has not technically broken the law, they can still be held accountable for their negligence. If you or someone you love was injured in a crash caused by a distracted driver, you could have grounds for a personal injury claim or lawsuit. We encourage you to reach out to our distracted driving accident attorneys at Dunk Law Firm today to learn more.