Distracted driving is a topic of serious and widespread concern. Public information campaigns abound to discourage texting, emailing, playing games on a mobile device, or talking on a cell phone while driving. In most states, including New York, some or all of these activities are illegal. However, statutes and ordinances tend to focus on the use of mobile devices.
Last year, a bill was introduced in the New Jersey legislature that provided in part that:
An operator of a moving motor vehicle shall not engage in any activity unrelated to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle on a public road or highway.
Only a handful of states have such a comprehensive prohibition on distracted driving, and the New Jersey bill immediately became highly controversial. Much of the controversy centered around coffee, with citizens and the media talking about the large fines that could apply to drivers who enjoyed a cup of coffee on their morning commutes and government representatives wondering aloud how discussion of a comprehensive bill to cut back on distracted driving had become all about coffee.
Data, however, suggests that maybe the conversation should be all about coffee.
The Dangers of Drinking (or Eating) and Driving
Most of us drink coffee or other beverages on the road—about 83%, according to an Exxon Mobile study. And, most of the time, we don’t get in accidents. That makes it easy to shrug off the risk, as many did when the “coffee law” was proposed in New Jersey. However, these statistics may give you second thoughts.
- According to a 2014 Lytx study, a driver who is eating or drinking is 3.6 times as likely to be involved in an accident as one who is attentive to the task at hand
- The University of Leeds found that a driver’s response time is about 44% slower when he or she is snacking
- In a separate study, researchers determined that the reaction time of a texting driver was 37.5% slower than usual—or, slightly less impaired than that of a snacking driver
- The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has stated that eating and driving increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident by 80%
Though eating and drinking behind the wheel generally create a risk, NHTSA ranked some of the most dangerous foods and drinks to indulge in on the road…and coffee took the number one spot.
Accidents Caused by Drivers Distracted by Food or Drink
Though it isn’t specifically against the law to sip a cup of coffee or munch on a burger in traffic, any type of distracted driving may give rise to a negligence suit. If you’ve been injured in a car accident with a driver who was eating or drinking at the time of the crash, or have lost a loved one to a driver distracted by food or drink, it is in your best interests to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Talk to an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer
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