August 17, 2006

Eating at the wheel “doubles crash chance”

LONDON (Reuters) - Eating and drinking while driving almost
doubles the risk of a car crash although three-quarters of
motorists do so, according to research on Friday.

Using a driving simulator, the study found motorists
misjudge the risk of eating and drinking and although they try
to compensate by driving more slowly, they are often unable to
brake in time to avoid a collision.

"The results of our experiment strongly indicate that
eating or drinking while driving increases the risk of a
crash," said Dr Mark Young, from Brunel University.

"Drivers may not perceive the risk to be any higher than
other menial in-car tasks, but the impaired reactions combined
with the increased workload suggest drivers should exert
caution," he said in a statement.

Participants drove an urban route once without eating and
then again while eating from a bag of sweets or drinking from a
bottle of water.

The number of crashes doubled during the food and drink
trial with nine in 10 occurring at the point the driver was
eating sweets or sipping water.

Although it is illegal to use hand-held mobile phones while
on the move there are no specific laws about eating or
drinking, although motorists could run the risk of being
charged with other offences.

One well publicized case last year involved a motorist
being fined 60 pounds for eating an apple.