Many adults pride themselves on their productivity, which means that they tend to want to accomplish as much as possible on any given day. Multitasking or working toward more than one objective simultaneously can feel like a powerful way to increase one’s productivity.
Multitasking isn’t actually effective, as people cannot split their attention between two matters effectively and will instead de-prioritize one or the other. However, the myth of multitasking remains a popular inclination among many busy adults. Even when doing something they know to be safety critical, like driving a car, they may try to handle other matters simultaneously.
Eating at the wheel seems like a reasonably safe way to achieve two tasks at the same time, one of which consumes a significant portion of someone’s day. However, eating even seemingly travel-friendly foods during one’s daily commute or on the way to an appointment could significantly increase someone’s risk of a crash.
Eating is a very serious distraction
When experts discuss distraction on the road, there are three types of distraction that matter the most. Visual distraction is what happens when someone takes their eyes off the road. Manual distraction means releasing one’s grip on the steering wheel, and cognitive distraction occurs when people think about something other than driving safely and their surroundings.
Unfortunately, eating is an activity that can cause all three types of distractions simultaneously. People have to look into their fast-food bags to grab a fry. They have to take their hand off of the wheel to take a bite out of their cheeseburger or grab their coffee from a cup holder. They will almost inevitably need to focus mentally on eating so that they don’t spill on themselves or drop the food in their laps.
Motorists could very easily end up so distracted that they swerve or otherwise failed to notice issues in traffic while eating normally in their vehicle. The risk is also there for something unusual to happen that will make eating at the wheel even more dangerous. Examples include spilling hot coffee or having a drip of ketchup end up on a shirt on the way to work. People’s reactions to those unexpected occurrences might mean that they do something very unsafe in traffic.
Recognizing that eating while driving is a serious safety concern might help people make safer choices in traffic and recognize when they have reason to hold someone else responsible for the consequences of a preventable crash.