Whether driving to an early class, commuting home after a work shift or running household errands, drivers usually attempt to multitask by dining while behind the wheel. For some, it is a meal to save time during a commute. For others, it is simply the habit of having a travel mug of coffee or a bottle of water to sip on while passing the time in traffic. No matter the reason, dining and driving can quickly become a dangerous habit.
Driving distractions generally fall into three categories:
- Cognitive distractions: Those activities that pull a driver’s focus and attention from the road.
- Manual distractions: Actions that require the driver to take one or both hands off the steering wheel.
- Visual distractions: Activities that cause the driver to look away from the road.
Unfortunately, dining and driving activities can often overlap across two or even all three of these categories. For example:
- Thinking about the meal: In a common example, a hungry driver might be distracted while behind the wheel as he or she is thinking about what food sounds good and where to stop. Often, the driver might become preoccupied by watching for what drive-thru restaurants are at the next exit.
- Reaching for a snack: Reaching into the passenger seat to select a chip, cookie or sandwich requires the driver to take a hand off the steering wheel. Some meals might actually require both hands to eat.
- Looking at a spill: It is not uncommon for a driver to spill a drink or knock some food into the space between the seat and center console. In most situations, the driver will immediately look away from the road to track down and clean up the mess.
Vehicle collisions caused by distracted drivers can result in catastrophic injuries such as brain damage, paralysis and amputation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that distracted driving-related collisions caused 3,142 fatalities nation-wide in 2019. If you were in an accident caused by a negligent or inattentive driver, it is wise to seek the guidance of a skilled legal professional.