Julie Townsend, Brake’s deputy chief executive, is warning drivers not “to treat our cars as an extension of our kitchen or bathroom”, following a survey in which more than six in 10 respondents (62%) admitted to eating while driving in the past 12 months.
In the survey of 1,000 drivers, 2% of respondents admitted to “narrowly avoiding a crash”, or “having to brake or swerve to avoid a hazard” because they were distracted by food or drink.
Brake says there is research which suggests that eating a meal at the wheel is as dangerous as talking on a phone.
Brake says its survey results are symptomatic of “busy lifestyles”, with in five respondents’ (20%) admitting to doing their hair, applying make-up or otherwise tidying up their appearance while at the wheel.
The charity says that “eating at the wheel is part of the wider problem of distracted drivers, believed to contribute to around one in five crashes”.
Brake is urging 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.
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."