Eating while driving

Lesson Type
Last updated: 12 Nov 2019

We all know the dangers of being distracted while driving, and that using your phone is illegal, but do you know where you stand when it comes to eating while driving? Here we look at the dangers of eating while driving, and at whether being caught having a snack behind the wheel could land you in hot water with the law.

The dangers of eating while driving

Out of the 1,000 motorists asked, 29% said they were guilty of unwrapping their snack whilst on the road, while another 33% said they had asked a passenger to unwrap it for them. A further 2% of those asked admitted that they had been distracted because they were eating while driving.

It’s not just eating and drinking we’re guilty of either. Bizarrely, 5% of motorists said they had carried out personal grooming – like shaving or putting on make up – while on the road.

As you'll find out from your very first driving lessons, driving requires concentration! Doing anything whilst at the wheel could potentially cause a distraction, as it means your concentration is taken away from what’s going on around you on the road. In fact, researchers at the University of Leeds found that drivers’ reaction times were 44% slower when they were enjoying a snack behind the wheel, while reaction times were 22% slower when the driver was having a drink.

Surprisingly, they found that motorists who used their phones to send a text message (which is illegal) were 37.4% slower to react than a non-distracted driver. So, if the reaction times were worse, surely eating while driving is just as bad as using your phone while driving?

Is eating while driving illegal?

Eating while driving is not illegal unless it’s causing you to drive without due care and attention. So, unlike using a phone behind the wheel, you won’t be stopped simply for eating or drinking while driving, but you could be stopped and given a £60 fine and three points on your licence if you are distracted because of it.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, said: “Driving is the most complicated and risky thing most of us do on a regular basis, so it is vital we give it our full and undivided attention. We can’t afford to treat our cars as an extension or our kitchen or bathroom.

“Eating at the wheel often means taking your eyes, hands and mind off the road and dramatically increases your chances of crashing and killing or seriously injuring someone.”