Risks of Eating and Drinking in the Car

getting a drive thru drink in the car

In today’s fast-paced world, multitasking has become the norm for many individuals. We often find ourselves juggling multiple responsibilities simultaneously, even behind the wheel. One common practice that may seem harmless but can have grave consequences is eating and drinking in the car. 

Despite the normalcy associated with this behavior (along with the mixed messages sent by over 200,000 drive-thru restaurants in the US), studies have shown that eating and drinking while driving has similar levels of impairment to texting. Furthermore, the NHTSA estimates that individuals eating while driving are nearly twice as likely to have an accident. Let’s take a closer look at how eating and drinking in the car can lead to an accident, and what you can do to stay safe. 

Why is Eating in the Car Bad?

Anything that takes a driver’s focus off of the road and his or her surroundings is considered distracted driving. According to the NHTSA, approximately 80% of accidents involve some form of driver distraction, and eating or drinking while driving contributes to this statistic. A seemingly innocuous activity, like sipping coffee or biting into a sloppy burger, can result in cognitive, visual, and manual impairment:

Cognitive Distraction When Eating or Drinking in a Car

A cognitive distraction is one that takes your mind off the task at hand. For this reason, it is also called “mind wandering.” Driving requires our full attention, and eating and drinking can cause us to momentarily focus on the wrong task or attempt to divide our attention between two tasks. A split second dedicated to enjoying the taste of your food or drink or getting angry over an incorrect order can have devastating consequences. 

Manual Distractions When You Eat and Drink on the Go

Manual distractions are those that prevent you from mechanically operating a vehicle safely. For example, eating or drinking can involve taking your hands off the steering wheel and diverting your attention to the items you are consuming. This manual distraction significantly reduces your ability to react promptly to unexpected situations on the road. You may be unable to react in time to avoid a hazard, for example, or grease on your hands may cause you to slip and veer into another lane. Hot coffee may spill on your lap, causing an unpredictable pain response like sudden braking or swerving.

Visual Distraction From Food and Beverages in the Car

Visual distractions impair your ability to see what is going on around you. Taking your eyes off the road, even for a few seconds, dramatically increases the risk of a collision. When you reach for a drink or unwrap a snack, your attention shifts away from the traffic ahead and your surroundings. 

Avoid Food and Drink-Related Car Accidents

Awareness and conscious effort can help mitigate the dangers of eating and drinking while driving. Here are some essential steps you can take to reduce the risks:

  1. Plan ahead: whenever possible, plan your meals and snacks before embarking on a journey. This will eliminate the need to eat while driving.
  2. Use designated areas: if you do get drive-thru or takeaway, try to eat it while parked in a designated area.
  3. Keep snacks within reach: if absolutely must eat or drink while driving, keep food unwrapped and well within reach. Never balance hot coffee between your legs or hold it in one hand with the other on the steering wheel. Keep beverages in general in an appropriately-sized cup holder that is next to you, not behind you.
  4. Leave fallen items for later: if something falls, resist the temptation to reach and pick it up. Should something fall by your feet and pose a risk of interference, pull over as soon as possible to remove it.
  5. Stay hydrated: Drink water or other beverages before you start your journey to reduce the urge to drink while on the road.

Distracted Driving in a Personal Injury Case

Eating and drinking poses a safety risk to the driver and everyone else on the road. If you were injured in an accident that resulted from this kind of distracted driving, you will want to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney. 

In Colorado, Dave Roth with the Roth Group is a top insurance, car accident, and personal injury lawyer. He will help you file your claim and pursue damages related to your emotional and physical injuries while you focus on recovering. Call or go online today to get started.