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How distracting is eating while driving?

Imagine the following scenario: you are driving along when suddenly, another car plows into you. While you are able to avoid injury, the damage to your vehicle is extensive enough that you know it will be costly. As you walk up to speak with the driver that hit, you notice food wrappers strewn about his or her front seat, and fresh grease and condiment stains on his or her shirt, no doubt indicating that he or she had been eating something when the accident occurred. 

If you do not need to imagine this situation due to it already having happened to you, then one question likely remains fixed in your mind: was the person who hit you being negligent by eating while driving? With all of added attention being placed on distracted driving recently, it seems surprising that eating while driving has been overlooked in this argument. Perhaps it is because of the assumption that eating is such a natural act that it hardly seems distracting. 

Expert opinion seems to disagree with this notion. Information compiled through a joint effort between The Auto Alliance and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons shows there to be three major forms of driving distractions: 

  • Visual
  • Manual 
  • Cognitive

Visual distractions take your eyes off the road, while cognitive distractions do the same with your thoughts and attention. Manual distractions are any actions that force you to take one or both hands off the steering wheel. Eating requires one to do all three, even if for just a brief moment. That is often all the time that is needed, however, for an accident to occur. Anyone who doubts need only review the data shared by Ltyx, which shows that drivers who eat while driving are 3.6 times more likely to cause collisions. 

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