Distracted Driving caused by Eating Behind the Wheel?

April 8, 2015 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Distracted Driving caused by Eating Behind the Wheel? Texting and cell phone talking has been at the forefront of debate concerning distracted driving for years. But what about the people who aren't fixated on their phone while driving distracted? What about those who choose to dine on the roadways? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that eating and driving is actually more dangerous than using a hand held cell phone while driving. “Distractions like eating can become a problem for drivers who cannot reach quickly to a sharp curve”. According to a study done by NHTSA, those who distract themselves with things such as eating and driving at the same time increases their odds of a vehicular collision by 80%. The study concludes that more than half of near accidents are caused by drivers distracted with things such as food.

What are the worst foods to eat while behind the wheel?

In addition to burgers, the study has ranked the worst foods to eat behind the wheel based on a survey of drivers. Coffee is the worst, bringing new meaning to the adage "don't drink and drive”. The study puts the other culprits in this order: soup, tacos, chili dogs, hamburgers, ribs and wings, fried chicken, jelly doughnuts, soda and chocolate. On-the-go New Yorkers contend you can drive and eat, and they won't stop multitasking. In a different study of 1000 drivers by ExxonMobil Corp, it was discovered that over 70% of drivers eat while driving - and 83% drink beverages. While eating, a driver's reaction speed is lowered by 44%. While drinking, it drops 22%. While drinking, a driver is 18% more likely to experience bas control over the lane. It has become such a problem, that several law enforcement agencies have made it their cause. For example, Kentucky State Police, as part of Operation RAID, were recently on the lookout for people who eat and drive. This included checkpoints targeting such distracted drivers, even though eating while driving is not currently banned in Kentucky. Some U.S. cities have already banned eating while driving. Drivers in Huron, South Dakota are fined $100 for eating and drinking beverages behind the wheel.

Food Related Accidents in the Morning

More food related accidents occur in the morning hours due to people eating breakfast on their way to work, and being concerned about the appearance when they show up for work. If a driver operates a stick shift, their odds of having a food related accident can double since eating, shifting, and steering requires increased dexterity. The most hazardous situation combines eating and cellular phone use. When the phone rings, the "driving distraction" increases and in a rush to answer, drivers forget they're driving.

Accidents Caused by Fast Food?

Fast food has helped the people of the world keep up with the undying pace of modern life. Because of the often-convenient location of chain restaurants and the justifiably low prices of the food within them, it's easy to understand why they're so popular. However, let's not overwhelm these places with praise. Aside from the commonly unhealthy characteristics of it which can be felt through consumption, these fast foods are also (albeit indirectly) doing a number on our driver population. Distracted driving is a huge problem. More often than not while you're on the road, someone in a nearby vehicle is texting and driving. For over a decade now, cell phones have been getting all of the ‘buzz' as the leading contributor to distracted driving accidents. Because technology advanced so dramatically over that period of time, it's understandable for safe driving advocates to push for awareness. Unfortunately, it seems they've completely taken the focus off of other forms of distracted driving that are in dire need of a rekindling. One recent story brought the topic of eating and driving back into the spotlight for a short while. A man was ticketed February of this year in Georgia for driving distractedly. What exactly was he doing? He was eating fast food. The ticket was technically justifiable under a vague set of Georgia laws, but it was effortlessly dismissed by Judge Eric Brewton who said “"the state does not believe it has the evidence necessary to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt". However, it's important to have an open mind regarding the issuing officer's decision. While I do believe it's needless to give a ticket for eating while driving (a stern talking to might have done the trick), I also see how a patrolling officer could view the distracted behavior as a serious safety hazard. It's unlikely that a driver will be prepared to stop suddenly when also attempting to force a quarter-pounder with cheese down his or her throat. Therefore, I'd like to believe that this ticket was initially given in good faith. Driving while eating is right up there with texting and driving as a top contributor to distracted driving accidents. What not to eat while driving… When you're in a rush to get to work, or simply not in the mood to slave over a hot stove to feed your entire family, fast food is a very reasonable option. On the other hand, it was determined some time ago that actually going inside of a fast food place is just too inconvenient. Drive-thru windows solved that problem by allowing just about any motor vehicle to be in-and-out in just minutes. Unfortunately, they also spawned a whole new problem: now the consumer has the scent of fresh, hot, ready-to-eat food lingering nearby—a tempting scenario for sure. But even just putting your hand inside of that paper bag to pull out a fry or two is distracting enough to cause an accident. Forget about trying to neatly consume a cumbersome burger dripping with messy sauces. To touch on a rarely covered topic, here is a list of the most dangerous foods which should be considered a no-no while driving, as they are distracting by nature. Runny foods are your enemy. If, after a moment, your food is going to drip, melt, leak, or liquefy, you shouldn't even consider eating it while driving. Common examples include:
  • Ice cream
  • Greasy burgers or pizza
  • Jelly donuts
Fragile foods (i.e. those that are destined to fall apart) should be avoided for sure. Driving is already a strenuous task in of itself. Trying to eat a food that is difficult enough to do so when given your full attention is a tell-tale sign that you shouldn't attempt it behind the wheel. Some examples are:
  • Hard-shell tacos
  • Granola bars
Hot foods, specifically those that are hot enough to cause burns to the skin, are by far the most distracting. Foods that are abnormally hot in the car are normally:
  • Coffee, hot chocolate, etc.
  • Hot Pockets or other recently microwaved on-the-go foods
Two-handed foods require special attention. If you have to use a utensil to eat it, your other hand is likely holding the container. Does that mean you're driving with your knees? Don't take unnecessary chances. Avoid eating:
  • Yogurt
  • Cereal
  • Soup
Stats about other types of distracted driving All of this just to tell people that they shouldn't eat and drive? Well, it seems as if many of the negligent drivers that populate our roads just can't take a hint. Sadly, it's the extreme measures (ticketing a driver for eating) that make the headlines and bring awareness to the topics that are tossed aside like unwanted leftovers. It's a sad truth that unless an issue makes it through to a mainstream media outlet, many people choose to turn a blind eye to it. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA hopes that by compiling some distracted driving crash data and presenting it straightforwardly that it will bring awareness to at least one more driver. Let's explore the different types of distracted driving. Cognitive distractions are those which take your mind off of the task of driving. Your hands can be on the wheel; your foot at the pedals; but if your thoughts are elsewhere, you're putting yourself and all of your passengers at great risk. After all, being mentally attentive is one of the most important aspects of driving safely. Stressing about upcoming bills or a recent argument is a mental activity that should be saved for a more appropriate time. Visual distractions are easy enough to understand. If you're not looking at the road ahead, you're already considered distracted. The degree of which you are distracted by such action, however, varies depending on what you're looking at. If your head is completely turned around looking at something or someone in the back seat, you might as well stop the car completely because chance is the only thing keeping you and your passengers safe. Manual distractions are those which cause you to take your hands off of the wheel. Unfortunately, reaching for your drink is not as important as safely taking that turn. Frustratingly trying to pull your phone or wallet out of your pocket or under the seat is not only dangerous behavior, but also unnecessary. You'll be able to reach for your belongings with ease when you're done driving. If you think about just a few of the most common distractions that nearly every driver has partaken in at one point and apply it to the above categories, you'll realize that many of them are multiple forms of distractions. For example, thinking of what to text your significant other is a cognitive distraction. Actually typing out that text is a manual distraction. Finally, reading their reply is a visual distraction. This is why texting and driving is considered such a danger. Just last week, a woman who was texting crashed into the side of house just under the bedroom of a 12-year-old girl who abruptly woke up in terror. Luckily, no one was injured, but the car was up to the windshield inside of the house. Texting and driving crashes are among the most saddening because a lot of the time, they involve young teens and other new drivers who never imagined their textuous behavior to cause such serious accidents.  SPEAK WITH AN EXPERIENCED DISTRACTED DRIVING ATTORNEY IN THE CLEARWATER & TAMPA BAY AREA FOR FREE You or a loved one may have been involved in an accident caused by a distracted driver. Whether they were texting, eating, applying makeup, or even having sex, one thing is for sure; their reckless behavior should not have been the reason for your losses. It's important to know that there is help available. If you've suffered physical, mental, emotional, or financial losses due to someone else's negligence, you may be eligible for significant monetary compensation. Speaking with an experienced distracted driving lawyer could be that helping hand you've needed all along. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA is a personal injury law firm situated in the Tampa Bay Area. Formed in 2009, the attorneys here came together to fulfill a passion of helping the wrongfully injured. In 2015, that passion has only grown and this firm still strives to be of utmost assistance to a struggling victim of negligence. To receive a free consultation and case evaluation by a real lawyer, give us a call at 727-451-6900. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 727-451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/car-accident-lawyer/distracted-driving/


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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