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Explaining the dangers of eating while driving

Distracted driving has become a national topic of conversation in recent years due to the proliferation of cell phone technology. People texting or talking on the phone while driving on Houston’s roads can present almost as great a danger to other motorists as those impaired by drugs or alcohol. Fortunately, solutions have been introduced in recent years to curb handset use while driving. Yet what many fail to recognize when it comes to distracted driving is that there are other equally dangerous forms of distraction that are often overlooked.

The most common of these may be eating. Information shared by the Auto Alliance working in conjunction with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons shows that 70 percent of drivers admit to eating while behind the wheel, while 83 percent say they drink beverages while driving. Coincidently, the same report shows that those who do choose to engage in such activity while driving are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in an accident than those who do not.

The reason behind that statistic likely has to do the fact foods and beverages can cause a driver to experience the three forms of distraction recognized as being the most common:

  •          Visual
  •          Manual
  •          Cognitive

One eating or drinking while driving must not only remove his or her hands from the wheel, but also occasionally divert his or her eyes to whatever it is that he or she is consuming. That, in turn, draws his or her attention away from the road.

This point is best illustrated by a study undertaken for the Traffic Injury Prevention Journal. In it, participants who ate while driving displayed similar levels of impaired reaction times and comparable numbers of unintended lane departures as those witnessed in people texting while behind the wheel. 

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