Eating at the wheel doubles crash chances – GEM

12.00 | 7 March 2017 | | 4 comments

Eating and drinking at the wheel doubles a driver’s chances of being involved in a crash, according to research highlighted by the road safety charity GEM Motoring Assist.

In a press release issued yesterday (6 Mar), GEM reminded motorists that not being in proper control of a vehicle is an offence punishable by a £100 fixed penalty and three points.

Neil Worth, GEM’s road safety officer, says too many drivers ‘don’t see it as a problem’, adding that driving is ‘a complex enough task already’.

The charity points to research undertaken in 2006 by Brunel University (London), which found that drivers are almost twice as likely to crash when eating or drinking as when driving normally.

The research says that while drivers try to compensate for eating and drinking by driving more slowly and carefully, they are ‘often unable to brake in enough time to avoid a collision’.

GEM is urging drivers to make sure they are always in full control of the vehicle, with both hands and the brain on the driving task.

Neil Worth said: “The Highway Code tells us that we must avoid distractions such as eating and drinking when we are driving. That’s because anything that takes our attention away from the driving task will increase our risk of collision. However, too many drivers don’t see it as a problem to unwrap a pasty, sip a scalding hot coffee or glug from a large juice carton on a journey.

“Driving is a complex enough task already. So trying to do anything else at the same time just makes the journey riskier because we’re not fully focused on driving. If something then goes wrong, we’re likely to react more slowly because our attention is elsewhere – and when we do react, there’s the food item or beverage to deal with, too.

“Good, experienced drivers accept that eating and drinking at the wheel are dangerous, so they won’t allow these distractions to compromise safety."

Want to know more about driver distraction and road safety? 
Online library of research and reports etc – visit the Road Safety Knowledge Centre
Key facts and summaries of research reports – visit the Road Safety Observatory


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    ‘Most’ experienced drivers David? What about the remainder? If the roads were populated by road users who always did everything perfectly, there wouldn’t be a need for Road Safety GB! It’s the minority in each road user group who don’t have the nouse to do things properly that we should be concerned about and be educating. This isn’t a proposed blanket ban, just a reminder that it’s an unsafe practice.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    There is no mention on GEM’s webpage of how the research was done, or a link to enable us to examine things a little more deeply.

    I suspect that most experienced drivers will carefully select when to take a drink from their coffee cup, or a lump out of their Ginster’s (other pasties area available). They probably would not choose to do so when negotiating a lane change on a multi-lane roundabout while simultaneously steering, changing gear, and checking mirrors. They might however choose to take a swig while on a featureless, lightly-trafficed dual carriageway when the risk of crashing is zero. Those of a mathematical inclination will know that two times zero is still zero.

    There is no specific offence of drinking and eating while driving, and long may it remain so. As a grown-up, my hand knows the exact location of my mouth and eating an apple, for example, is hardly a difficult mental task. If Police can find evidence that a driver is not in full control of his vehicle, then I am all for them to follow it up, but to issue a blanket ban on eating and drinking when behind the wheel would make the law look an ass.

    David, Suffolk
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    On the other hand Mr/Ms Guzzi, if “..many drivers with 10, 20, 30 or more years experience without incident (not sure how you could know that actually) are a counterpoint demonstrating that it does not have to be unsafe…” then logically the remainder of that group who do have incidents must therefore must demonstrate that it is indeed an unsafe practice.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Those of us who drive for a living and are on tight deadlines eat and drink whilst driving on a daily basis. The researchers may well be able to point to a statistical possibility of increased risk but many drivers with 10, 20, 30 or more years experience without incident are a counterpoint demonstrating that it does not have to be unsafe. GEM, please don’t “overdo” the concerns on this one.

    Guzzi, Newport
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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