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Is eating and drinking while driving dangerous?

Some of the most discussed causes of distracted driving involve texting or talking on the phone. But what about eating and drinking? At first glance, the act of taking a bite out of a sandwich or sipping a beverage would not pose a big impediment to driving on a Connecticut road. However, dividing your attention to eat or drink while driving can indeed be dangerous and can result in a motor vehicle accident.

According to decidetodrive.org, the act of eating and drinking in a motor vehicle can distract a person visually, cognitively, manually, or a combination of two or all of the three factors. When a motorist eats, he or she is not focused entirely on the road, so eating creates visual impairment. The act of picking up a sandwich or a burger takes one of your hands off the wheel, dividing your physical attention from controlling your vehicle. And as you eat or drink, you are splitting your mental attention between your meal and the road.

Eating and drinking in a motor vehicle creates all sorts of small tasks that can keep your attention divided. You may have to take your food out of its paper bag. You might need to unwrap your sandwich out of its aluminum foil. Some motorists want to apply ketchup and mustard to their lunch. A driver might also use napkins to keep hands clean.

Food and drink also provides the potential for spills and messes. Hot coffee, for example, can spill on a person’s lap or in the inside of a driver’s car, including the seat, cupholders or dashboard. Ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise also offer spill hazards. In fact, any kind of food has the potential to cause a mess. A spilled drink or food can frustrate or anger a motorist, which can in turn increase the potential for an auto accident.  

Statistics show eating and drinking on the road is a serious matter. Estimated statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that a person who eats and drinks behind the wheel is 80 percent more likely to get into a vehicle crash. Food and drink consumption also contribute to an additional 65 percent of just nearly experiencing a vehicle crash. And food and drink consumption while driving is very common. Exxon Mobil conducted a study of one thousand drivers and found that 83 percent of motorists drink and 70 percent eat while on the road.

Keep in mind this article is written to inform readers about distracted driving and does not offer legal advice.

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