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Distraction driving is one of the most dangerous behaviours that police are currently working hard to crack down on. A momentary lapse in concentration can have serious consequences for all road users and this includes eating behind the wheel.
According to recent research conducted at Brunel University, eating and drinking behind the wheel is a distraction estimated to double a driver’s risk of being involved in a crash. In addition it’s an offence punishable either by a fixed penalty ticket or under careless driving legislation.
In January 2016, a woman was fined £145 for peeling and eating a banana while behind the wheel. She was also given three penalty points on her licence. The woman, Elsa Harris, was charged and found guilty of driving without due care and attention.
Eating and drinking while driving are charged in the same way as drivers who are caught committing offenses such as tailgating or middle lane hogging. Drivers who commit the offence will attract fines in excess of £100 and three penalty points.
Below, Trusted Dealers offers some points on how to reduce the risk of an accident on journeys:
Be in control
Make sure that you are always in full control of your car, which means keeping both hands on the wheel when it is possible, and remaining focussed on the driving task. Taking your hand or hands off the wheel at any given time could lead to a penalty – if your hands cannot been seen on the wheel this is an offence.
Plan your journeys
Plan your journeys to allow enough time to stop for drinks, snacks or to stretch your legs, particularly during longer journeys. Don’t give into peer pressure to eat behind the wheel, the momentary lapse in concentration could lead to a more serious accident, particularly if you’re not giving the road your full attention.
Stop somewhere safe
Choose a safe place to stop if you need to have a snack or a drink or simply take a break. Remember tiredness can also kill, so it’s worth making regular stops on longer journeys to ensure you are fully alert behind the wheel. Choose a motorway or service station with proper parking – pulling into the side of the road causes an obstruction for other road users which could be dangerous.
We all like to think we can multi-task, but behind the wheel is not the right time to try it out. If you need to contact someone on your phone, or change the music on the stereo, ask a passenger to do it for you, don’t try to do it yourself. If you’re driving alone, pull over somewhere safe to answer a call or have a snack and make sure the engine is off while you do so.
GEM road safety officer Neil Worth said: “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 the driving task. 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.”