What’s More Distracting… Drink Driving Or Eating Behind The Wheel?

Naturally you would presume that drink driving would be far more dangerous than eating whilst driving, or would it? Recent research has shown some results that claim that eating or drinking behind the wheel is in fact more damaging to your driving ability than driving whilst under the influence of alcohol!

The study created by the University of Leeds examined aspects of a groups driving ability, such as reaction times and awareness, in a controlled environment. Observed activities for the study included – texting, eating, drink driving and consuming a non-alcoholic beverage. The results showed that eating increased a person’s reaction times by around 44%, followed closely by texting at 37%. Next up was drinking a can or bottle behind the wheel, increasing the time by 22% and finally drinking whilst intoxicated (0.08% blood alcohol level) – only increased reaction times by 12.5%.

With an approximated fifth of all motorists scoffing behind the wheel, drivers are now been warned that eating whilst driving will result in prosecution. Drivers will be charged more specifically for a careless driving offence as opposed to actually eating behind the wheel as there is no law for this as of yet. Eating behind the wheel can lead to a driver not having adequate control of their vehicle – which is deemed as careless. In a related survey, 50% of motorists openly admit to eating a meal behind the wheel, which often entailed eating when driving from supermarkets or on a rushed school run.

General snacks were found to be most popular amongst motorists – such as crisps, sandwiches and chocolate. It was also revealed that motorists based in the midlands were most likely to be eating on the road.

Prof. Samantha Jamson of the University said: ‘‘It is widely accepted that the distraction of talking on a hand-held mobile phone may increase accident risk.’’

‘‘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.’’

Deaths on the road caused by distractions are easily avoidable, but account for thousands of fatalities each year. The best proven method of reducing deaths on the road is to educate drivers of the risks they pose – to change their attitude towards driving. Whilst there is a surplus of educational materials for drunk driving, there are relatively few schemes out there warning motorists of the dangers of eating and driving.

Another implication of a careless driving offence is the effect on your insurance premium. Even those prosecutions that entail with a minor careless driving offence i.e. a CD10 (driving without due care and attention) can inflate your premium significantly. These driving offences will stay on your for years licence before being cleared by the DVLA. However, any driving offence will need to be informed to your insurer for a period of five years and in some cases 10 years. This means you could be suffering from increased premiums for a long time for not resisting the urge to eat when driving.

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