From the convenience of fast food drive-thrus to the desire to multitask while behind the wheel, drivers are constantly enticed by the ease of eating a meal. Whether you are trying to save time by eating breakfast on the way to your first class or eating dinner after working a long shift, eating and drinking while driving can be dangerous.

When people hear the phrase “distracted driving,” they will generally first think of cell phone use or, possibly, the manipulation of a GPS navigation system. Unfortunately, one of the most common driving distractions involves eating or drinking while behind the wheel.

A recent Driving Tests article highlights the top four reasons why eating while driving is such a dangerous idea.

  1. Eating almost always takes both hands off the wheel. One classification of distracted driving is “manual distractions” in which the driver removes his or her hands from the control surfaces of the car. Eating and drinking require this action. From opening sauce packets to taking a bite from a sandwich to grabbing a chip from a bag of food, eating will almost always require a manual distraction.
  2. Something as simple as taking a drink can be hazardous. A large to-go cup can obscure the driver’s vision. Unscrewing the cap from a resealable bottle can pull attention from the road. Even a seemingly simple task such as taking the wrapper off a straw and poking it through the pre-cut hole in a drink cup can take both the eyes and the hands off the primary task of driving.
  3. Passengers are distracting. Much like a distracting conversation, passengers who are eating can pull attention from the road. Too often, they attempt to hand you food or take your food from you. What if someone in the backseat drops some food? Maybe the driver turns around to chastise such a careless action. Who, then, is watching the road?
  4. Clutter adds up. What if a discarded soda can gets lodged under the brake pedal, preventing the driver from reacting to stopped traffic? While this might seem like a far-fetched scenario, food clutter in a vehicle can be dangerous and distracting.

While the list of driving distractions seems to grow daily, there are several that drivers simply do not consider a problem. Whether it is the bravado of “having done it forever” or the belief that having a quick bite can’t possibly be dangerous, drivers are wise to remember that anything that pulls attention from the primary task can lead to disaster.