What is a cause in more accidents: eating while driving or talking on the phone while driving?

Previous research suggests that compared to mobile phone use, eating and drinking while driving is more common and is seen as lower risk by drivers. Nevertheless, snacking at the wheel can affect vehicle control to a similar extent as using a hands-free phone, and is actually a causal factor in more crashes. So far, though, there has not been a controlled empirical study of this problem. In an effort to fill this gap in the literature, we used the Brunel University Driving Simulator to test participants on a typical urban scenario. At designated points on the drive, which coincided with instructions to eat or drink, a critical incident was simulated by programming a pedestrian to walk in front of the car. Whilst the driving performance variables measured were relatively unaffected by eating and drinking, perceived driver workload was significantly higher and there were more crashes in the critical incident when compared to driving normally. Despite some methodological limitations of the study, when taken together with previous research, the evidence suggests that the physical demands of eating and drinking while driving can increase the risk of a crash.

Source: “Crash dieting: The effects of eating and drinking on driving performance” from Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 40, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 142-148

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