driving habitsare second nature. After years on the road, reflexes take over. You no longer have to think about signaling or accelerating out of a turn—you just do it. The more comfortable you get behind the wheel, the more prone you are to multitasking:
answering the odd phone call, applying a little lipstick, or eating breakfast on the way to work.
But driving safely requires your attention, and taking your mind off the task can have deadly consequences. In 2019 alone,
distracted drivingtook the lives of 3,142 people, according to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Cell phone use is often highlighted for its ability to distract drivers, but food can have just as much of an impact on your concentration.
Eating anything while driving is less than ideal for road safety, but these three things are particularly dangerous to consume while operating a vehicle.
This might be the most common culprit for drivers, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. You don’t need to be told that coffee is hot, but many people still drink it while driving because it helps them stay alert.
Unfortunately, the dangers tend to outweigh the benefits of drinking the hot beverage while on the road. Even in a sealed to-go cup, a bump in the road or an unexpected stop can send that steaming coffee into your lap. Try keeping your thoughts on driving with scalding liquid all over your hands and pants!
If you need a pick-me-up while driving, it’s better to pick something cold with a lid so spills are less dramatic. Better yet, stop and take a break if you’re tired. Your life and the lives of other drivers are far more valuable than the few minutes you might save by driving drowsy.
With all the fast food lining highways across the country, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the eating of hamburgers while driving as a national pastime. But picking up a burger through the drive-thru and heading back on the road with it still in your hands is a bad idea.
The process of eating a hamburger is more distracting than you might think. First, there’s the process of unwrapping it and disposing of the garbage. Then you have to figure out how to hold it while keeping at least one hand on the steering wheel. And then, of course, you have hot cheese, pickles, and other condiments to deal with.
Handheld foods like sandwiches and tacos are all poor choices for eating while driving, but the heat and messiness of hamburgers make them the worst of the category. If the restaurant signs make you hungry, it’s best to just stop for dinner than to take it to go.
With all that talk of condiments, you might’ve thought of chicken as a good substitute for dinner on the go. Think again.
Baked or fried, wings, legs, or thighs, chicken can be a troublesome mid-trip snack. Again, you’re dealing with something hot. Chicken also tends to be sticky or greasy. Once it’s in your hands, you’ll most likely try to avoid touching things—including your steering wheel—until you find a napkin. It’s hard to make safe driving a priority when you can’t touch the steering wheel.
Staying safe on the road
As was mentioned earlier, eating while driving should generally be avoided. No matter what you choose to chew on, food can easily distract you from traffic and cause all types of accidents. It can also get you a ticket if a traffic cop sees you and determines that your actions are endangering others.
If you absolutely need something to eat while you’re driving, it’s best to choose something clean, room-temperature, and easy to handle. Nuts, granola bars, and dried fruit are easy to pop in your mouth quickly, and dropping them doesn’t cause a catastrophe.