A new report issues a stark warning to commercial drivers across the UK that eating while driving can be more dangerous than using a mobile phone or even drink driving.
Researchers from the University of Leeds have discovered that eating when behind the wheel of a van can slow reactions by as much as 44% and drinking can slow reactions by up to 22%. The trials showed that in both cases drivers lost a great degree of lane control, some by as much as 18%. Professor Samantha Jamson led the study and said: “It is accepted that the distraction of talking on a hand-held mobile phone may increase accident risk. However, other activities that involve taking one hand off the wheel, such as eating or drinking, may also cause distraction. Drivers take their eyes off the road in order to reach for or un-wrap items.”
Drivers who typically hold commercial vehicle insurance are particularly vulnerable to eating and drinking behind the wheel. Many hauliers and delivery drivers encounter hold ups in their working day and then try to make up time by snacking behind the wheel instead of taking a proper break. A spokesman for the Freight Transport Association said: “Of course some people take risks when trying to make up for lost time, but no-one condones it, and a driver who relies on his driving licence for his living is usually less likely to put it at risk.”
While eating, drinking and smoking behind a wheel have not been outlawed yet, there is a growing lobby that believe they should be viewed in the same way as drink driving and using a hand held mobile phone. At the moment police forces can charge a driver who loses control of his car while eating or drinking with careless driving but a law change could be imminent.