Driving with Dangerous Food

Driving a vehicle while drinking and eating may pose a more serious problem than one may think. While most people think that drinking alcohol and driving and cell phone use while driving are the biggest cause of accident-related incidents, food consumption rates up there among the leading distractions.

Restraining Orders against Food?

When Hagerty Classic Insurance, a reputable classic-car insurance provider, ran a DMV check on an insurance applicant, they found an interesting note. A “restraining order” had been put against the man, who was not permitted to have anything edible within his reach while he was driving. His driving record indicated that he had several accidents already recorded that were related to eating and driving.

When you eat while you are operating a motor vehicle, you create a very distracting situation. Many recent surveys have looked at the data provided about accidents and food and drink consumption. Insurance companies have done studies on this widespread problem, as has the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA.

NHTSA does not actually keep track of specific information on food-related distraction. However, they do keep track of general distractions and, as of the year 2000, the cause of 25 percent of police-reported vehicle wrecks were caused by some sort of distraction. To quote NHTSA, “distraction was most likely to be involved in rear-end collisions in which the lead vehicle was stopped and in single-vehicle crashes."

What Causes the Distractions?

When you are distracted while you are driving, such as eating a meal or sipping a cup of coffee, you may not realize an unexpected event until it is too late. A sharp curve, a passing motorist, a suddenly-stopped car in front of you-all of these may happen while you are busy doing something else. When Hagerty reviewed different insurer’s history of claims, he noticed that most drivers have problems while they are on their way to work. When a spill happens, the person is eager to clean it off their work clothes, and may be in a hurry, thus not pausing long enough to pull off the road to deal with it. "It really seems it's more the spill than the eating," says Hagerty. "Anything that drips is probably not a good idea."

Top 10 Food Offenders

The staff at Hagerty Classic Insurance, along with Hagerty himself, decided to do their own study on the effects of eating and driving. They were curious to see just which food and drinks were the worst offenders. Although Hagerty admits to ruining some of his shirts while the study was on, the company was able to find some interesting information.

The worst offender was coffee. Most coffee has a tendency to spill out of its cup, even with travel lids securely in place. Most times, it’s not even when you are trying to drink it that causes the problem. When you hit a bump, the coffee comes out the little hole on top. When you do spill it on yourself while drinking and driving, you have a couple issues to deal with. One, the stain on your clothes and/or car. Two, the hot temperature that most coffees are brewed at.

The Top 10 Most Dangerous Foods While Driving Are:

Coffee - Hot, and usually comes out of the cup no matter how careful you are.
Hot soup-Some people like to drink hot soup straight out of the cup for a filling and quick meal. They run the same risk as coffee drinkers do.

Tacos - Easily one of the messiest foods. Not only are you trying to eat it without it falling out of your mouth, you are trying not to destroy your car with lettuce and meat.

Chili - As bad as eating soup, the drips and spills can burn and stain.

Cheeseburgers - You have to deal with not only grease, but ketchup, mustard, and falling pickles all over your clothes and car.

Anything Barbecued - Again, the same problem as cheeseburgers. The sauce will end up getting all over the place.

Fried Chicken- A food almost impossible to eat without greasy hands, meaning you have to constantly wipe them on something.

Jelly and Cream-filled Donuts - You always have to be on the lookout for the center coming out.

Soft Drinks - Seemingly easy to drink, yet can easily spill when the can or bottle is full. Plus, the constant movement of the vehicle causes more carbonation and fizz to occur.

Chocolate - Eating chocolate makes your fingers sticky and coated, and getting them clean while driving can be quite a chore.

Insurance Companies and Driving with Dangerous Food

Most insurance companies, such as Allstate Insurance Company or State Farm Insurance, are not able to keep specific track of the problem of eating while driving a vehicle. It is too difficult to break down. State Farm reports that the company is aware that it is indeed a problem. It is difficult to separate the causes of accidents when many distractions are to blame. Cell phone use, chatting with other passengers, reading a newspaper, and eating are all to blame for accidents. Many people engage in these very activities on a regular basis while they are trying to successfully maneuver a two-ton piece of machinery.

Driving with a Stick Shift

It is even more dangerous to be operating a standard vehicle, or a stick shift, while eating or drinking. While one hand is shifting, the other is holding onto the food or beverage, leaving none to actually drive. There are too many distractions going on at once. It is a lot more dangerous to drive, eat, and use a cellular telephone, Hagerty stated. "When the phone rings, the driving distraction increases significantly and, in a rush to answer, drivers forget they're driving."

How Widespread is this Food Problem?

In the year 2000, the Research Insurance Agency performed a survey. They concluded that eating while driving is the Number two driving distraction. The Number One distraction is changing channels on the radio or fiddling with a CD or tape. This was noted by 62% of surveyed drivers. Noted by 56% of surveyed drivers was the distraction of turning around to speak with passengers sitting in the back seat. Only a mere 29% of the surveyed drivers said that speaking on their cell phone was a distraction while driving.

A study was also done by Exxon in 2001. Out of 1,000 drivers, over 70 percent said that they do in fact eat while driving. This is up from 58 percent in 1995. Eighty-three percent reported that they drink soda, juice and coffee while driving. Some say they would even love having a microwave in their car. Clearly, the distractions drivers face today have become a national problem.