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Distracted Driving: Eating While Driving

Eating and Distracted Driving
Distracted Driving

Eighty per cent of all motor vehicle accidents and 16% of highway fatalities are caused by distracted drivers.  In studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or “NHTSA” texting and jabbering on the cell phone top the list of distractions.

But eating while driving, something 86% of drivers admit to, also presents a high level of danger.

NHTSA collected data on the top 10 most dangerous foods people eat while driving. The data showed that coffee is the number one dangerous item consumed while behind the wheel.  Coffee can spill, even with a lid.

Consuming Liquids Behind the Wheel: Distracted Driving

Coffee’s high temperature poses dangers when spilled, taking the drivers attention away from the road with pain and attempts to clean up the mess.

Soft drinks also present danger when driving.  The driver’s eyes are diverted from the road while reaching for a drink in the cup holder, just like coffee.  Tipping one’s head back to take a sip challenges the ability to fully keep one’s eyes on the road.

Greasy Messy Foods and Distracted Driving

Hot soup and chili also make the list of dangerous foods.  They’re hot, they can spill if the vehicle hits a bump and they stain.  Generally a spoon is needed, so drivers consuming these items face a balancing act juggling spoon, container and the steering wheel.  Add a gear shift if it’s a manual transmission and the danger skyrockets.

Other messy foods on the list include juicy hamburgers, fried chicken, tacos, barbeque, chocolate, and jelly or crème filled donuts.  Barbeque and fried chicken are extremely greasy so the driver often has to move about the car to find napkins between each bite. Chocolate tends to melt, smearing on hands, the steering wheel and clothing, forcing drivers to clean the mess while still attempting to pay attention to the road.

Tacos, hamburgers, and donuts are just as messy as chocolate. They drip and they fall apart onto the driver’s clothing or seat.  Such foods make the “top 10 most dangerous” list because they make a mess, require constant cleaning and sometimes involve the use of both hands.  A motor vehicle operator’s duty to stay focused and drive with caution is challenged with the distraction of cleaning up a food or drink mess.

More Distracted Driving Laws Needed?

The dangers of distracted driving activities such as texting are as obvious as they are often pursued.  We’ve addressed the dangers of texting in another blog article.

While few state laws actually target eating while driving, there are laws prohibiting distracted driving, driving to endanger, negligent operation and other specified charges.  Georgia police in January, 2015 cited a man for eating a double quarter pounder while driving.  The police officer actually told Madison Turner:

“You can’t just go down the road eating a hamburger.”

Prosecutors later dropped the charges explaining they lacked adequate evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

But the fact remains, eating while driving poses clear danger.  Here is the actual list:

  1. Coffee
  2. Hot Soup
  3. Tacos
  4. Chili
  5. Hamburgers
  6. Barbecued Food
  7. Fried Chicken
  8. Jelly or cream-filled donuts
  9. Soft drinks
  10. Chocolate

Immediately after an accident, while exchanging information, it’s not a bad idea to look for evidence of the other driver’s conduct such as spilled beverages or food in the driver’s compartment.  Pull out your cell phone and document this evidence.  And, it’s also not a bad idea to retain an experienced personal injury to properly pursue your claim for any injuries.


Photo Model: Stephanie Waterman

Attorney Andrew D. Myers is a personal injury attorney with over 25 years of experience.  His offices are in North Andover, MA and Derry, NH.

One thought on “Distracted Driving: Eating While Driving”

  1. I never thought twice about this until recently I was driving and eating a donut and a gooey piece with jelly fell onto my slacks. When I looked down and noticed the stain I swerved and went over the line on the breakdown lane. Fortunately I corrected quickly but yes now I notice all the people out there eating messy sandwiches and other food which really they shouldn’t.

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Attorney Myers is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers, and New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. The Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers offer a broad range of legal services in personal injury cases in Massachusetts (MA) and New Hampshire (NH) areas.

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