We all know the risks involved with alcohol and driving, but what happens when we eat and drive?
Fast food chains not only tempt us with highly processed, sugary foods, they also tempt us by making it easy to eat and drive.
Two Reasons Not to Eat and Drive
1. Slower response time
We tend to take one hand off the wheel when reaching for a food or trying to unwrap it which results in a reduced reaction time. According to a University of Leeds study, driver’s reaction times were up to 44 percent slower than usual if they were trying to eat and drive. Drivers also exhibited slower response times when sipping a drink (22 percent slower) and 18 percent were also likely to wander between lanes. As University of Leeds spokeswoman Professor Samantha Jameson points out,
“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.”
2. Poor stress response
Driving engages the brain’s stress response system (sympathetic nervous system). In this system, you respond in a healthy manner if someone cuts you off on the expressway. You get just the right dose of norepinephrine to cause you to slow down. If the system is off balance you can get too much norepinephrine, which results in high levels of anxiety, which in turn causes your heart to race for hours after the event. If too little norepinephrine is released you come close to hitting the car because your response time is slowed.
Eating can impair your stress response system because it activates the rest and digest system (parasympathetic nervous system). If we have too much going on internally we easily disrupt our delicate stress response system. It’s far better to enjoy our food in a stress-free, calm environment.
It make sense to focus on driving and eliminate as many distractions as possible. We already know that cell phones and alcohol easily impair our driving abilities. Why not add food to the list?
I am guilty here! I should defintiely work on it!
Andrea Fabry says
🙂 Thanks for sharing.
Another reason to keep your food separate from your car: The inside of your car is made mostly of plastic, and all that plastic is laced with plastic softeners and flame retardants that are toxic. If you eat in your car, you almost can’t help ingesting some of that.
Eat at a table. With a friend. Food is meant to be enjoyed!
Andrea Fabry says
That’s a great point!! Thanks for sharing that nugget of information, CelloMom.
For solids, I don’t want to risk something getting lodged in my throat while I’m driving.
For liquids, unless sipping from a straw, vision is impaired while my head is tilted back and a solid object is directly in front of my face — and if using a straw, I consider the possibility of being rear-ended, or having the airbag activated, and having the straw forced through the roof of my mouth. Repairable, but why not avoid it!
And upbringing plays a part, too. My mother grew up during the Great Depression and drilled into me the importance of not eating or drinking in front of others who might have nothing to eat or drink. When I break some of my own rules and am eating or drinking while in the car, if I am pulling up to a stop light in multiple lanes, I immediately put everything down, out of sight. It’s almost a reflex.
Andrea Fabry says
I love this feedback! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I agree about eating in front of others. The longer I live the more I want to hear from those are are “old-school”.