Drivers urged to take time out to enjoy their lunch, as more than six in ten admit eating at the wheel
Drivers are being urged to take a break and enjoy their food away from their vehicles, as road safety charity Brake and Direct Line reveal more than six in ten (62%) have eaten at the wheel in the past year. Three in ten (29%) unwrapped food themselves at the wheel - a telling symptom of busy lifestyles putting lives at risk. Studies have suggested eating a meal at the wheel increases your risk of a devastating crash as much as talking on a phone.
Brake and Direct Line's survey of 1,000 drivers reveals that in the past year:
The numbers of UK drivers eating at the wheel reflects a wider trend towards eating on the move, as lifestyles become ever more fast-paced. Britons have been found to spend more on food eaten on the move than any other country in Europe, with our continental neighbours more likely to take time out to enjoy meals.
Brake and Direct Line's survey shows it's not just meal times being squeezed by our busy lifestyles, as one in five drivers (20%) admit to doing their hair, applying make-up or otherwise tidying up their appearance while at the wheel. One in 20 (5%) admit doing so in free-flowing traffic, risking appalling crashes.
Eating at the wheel is part of the wider problem of distracted drivers, believed to contribute to around one in five crashes (22%). Drivers who attempt to multi-task at the wheel are two to three times more likely to crash, and complex tasks like unwrapping and eating a burger increase the risk even more. The consequences can be deadly, as in May 2012 when cyclist Joe Wilkins was killed by a driver who was eating a sandwich.
Brake urges all drivers to give the road their full attention and save any other activities for regular breaks, which should be at least every two hours on long journeys. Brake also calls on government to make traffic policing a national priority to stop multi-tasking drivers putting lives at risk. Recently introduced on-the-spot fines for ‘careless driving' offences are a step in the right direction and have already been used on a lorry driver brushing his teeth. However, Brake argues the current £100 fine needs to be much higher to effectively deter this potentially deadly behaviour.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: "Driving is the most complicated and risky thing most of us do on a regular basis, so it is vital we give it our full and undivided attention; we can't afford to treat our cars as an extension of our kitchen or bathroom. Eating at the wheel often means taking your eyes, hands and mind off the road and dramatically increases your chances of crashing and killing or seriously injuring someone. Drivers need to take regular breaks and make time away from their vehicles to enjoy lunch or perform other tasks. We are also appealing to government to increase fines for distraction and careless driving offences, to stop risky multi-tasking drivers."
Rob Miles, director of Motor at Direct Line, commented: "It's imperative that motorists focus their full attention on the road. There has been significant research into the increase in drivers' reaction times while talking on a mobile phone, but other in-car distractions that take the driver's attention away from the road can be equally harmful. We advise motorists to always build in time for a break if they are going on a long journey, and use this time to refuel with food and drinks as well as with petrol."
Distraction is deadly. Drivers need to keep their mind and eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel to drive safely. Giving into distractions is a bit like drink-driving: it affects reaction times and control, and could easily cost someone their life.
Eating and drinking on the move might seem harmless but research shows it reduces our ability to react quickly. Eating should be a pleasure, so take the time out and savour your meals when you're not driving.
On long journeys, stop for breaks every two hours and use that time to eat, catch up on phone calls and messages, and do any personal grooming you need to do. When you get back in the car, your mind should be completely back on the road.