Drivers urged to stop for comfort breaks rather than snack at the wheel
Brake, the road safety charity, is warning drivers of the dangers of eating at the wheel.
Its new survey – carried out in partnership with Direct Line – has found a third of drivers questioned sometimes eat food behind the wheel. Just over a quarter of people (27%) have unwrapped and eaten the food and a third (33%) admit to eating food someone else has unwrapped for them.
It says the worst offenders are drivers aged 25-34. More than half (55%) in this age bracket admitting they have unwrapped and then eaten at the wheel, with just under a third of those admitting to doing it at least once every week.
One in 10 of the drivers who responded said they had been involved in a near-miss because they were distracted by eating food. A near-miss was classed as having to suddenly break or swerve to avoid a hazard.
According to Brake, research shows that drivers who eat and drink at the wheel are twice as likely to crash and this risk may be even higher if the food is hot, messy or you have to unwrap yourself. Eating and drinking while driving diverts attention away from the driving task, increasing reaction times by up to 44%, meaning drivers will respond to hazards much more slowly. It also causes physical distraction, as at least one hand is off the wheel holding food or drink.
While is not against to law to eat while driving it can become a crime if a person’s driving becomes distracted because they are unwrapping food or eating it. Driving without due care and attention or careless driving is a criminal offence, whatever the distraction. The maximum penalty for the offence is a driving ban.
Alice Bailey, communications and campaigns advisor for Brake, said: “Imagining a distracted driver you may think of someone on a mobile phone, but many things can dangerously draw our attention away from the roads around us.
“In the fast-paced world we live in it is sometimes tempting to eat on the go, but drivers who are distracted by something else, even food, significantly increase their risk of causing a devastating crash. If you’re hungry, you probably need to take a short break from driving to eat and recuperate before continuing your journey when you’re not distracted by hunger or eating.”
Gus Park, commercial director of motor at Direct Line, said: “Whilst we appreciate people’s busy lifestyles often dictate that we eat on the go and that a sudden pang of hunger can seem impossible to ignore, we urge drivers not to let their stomachs get in the way of good judgement and safe driving. If you really can’t wait until you reach your destination to eat, then stopping off for a comfort break is a much better idea than eating at the wheel. Pit-stops provide a great opportunity to re-energise before the next leg of your journey.”