It is a behavior many motorists have partaken in. Whether you are rushing around on your lunch break or running late in the morning, eating behind the wheel is an all-too-common occurrence. And unlike texting while driving, which is a punishable offense in North Carolina and many other states, eating while driving is not expressly prohibited.
It is discouraged, however, no matter how long you have been driving or how skilled you believe you are behind the wheel. Eating while driving is a form of distracted driving, which can lead to devastating injuries as well as property damage.
Why eating and driving is so dangerous
Distracted driving behaviors are broken down into three separate categories:
- Cognitive - Occurs when your mind is not on driving. This could be something as simple as day-dreaming, or a more complicated task, like composing a text or email.
- Manual - Involves taking your hands off the wheel. Manual distractions include changing radio stations, using a mobile device, adjusting a GPS, etc.
- Visual - Taking your eyes off the road. Looking at a passenger, checking notifications on your phone, or reading a text are all considered to be visual distractions.
Texting while driving is so dangerous because it combines cognitive, manual, and visual distractions. However, eating while driving can also fall into this category. For example, you must take your eyes off the road to reach down for your food, while your hand will leave the wheel when reaching into a bag or box. Cognitive distractions can occur if you drop what you are eating or drinking into your lap, in which case your mind would be concerned with cleaning up the mess.
How you can avoid this driving distraction
If you are guilty of eating while driving, think about the times you are most likely to do so. If it is in the morning, wake up and hour earlier so you can enjoy a meal at home before you leave. If it is during your lunch break, make time for meals and avoid eating food picked up at drive-thrus while you are still driving. If you are taking an extended road trip, take plenty of breaks. Not only will this ensure you are well-rested, it also allows time to eat during your trip.