Distracted driving was an epidemic without a name until 2010 when then United States Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood coined the phrase, but it has had unfortunate staying power in the American tradition. Advocates for safe driving now work tirelessly to raise awareness surrounding this important issue, and the focus is often on cellphone use.
Indeed, cell phones are the new nemesis to safe driving—whether it’s texting, talking, shuffling an iPod, adjusting a route on the GPS, etc., but the issue extends far beyond that. One of the most dangerous distractions is one that sometimes gets overlooked because it seems so second nature to us: eating.
A study conducted by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that eating while driving increases the odds of a crash by a staggering 80%.
As a country, we are so addicted to the concept of multitasking that we struggle to accept that driving is simply a time for driving, and not a time to attempt crossing anything else off the to-do list. In movies, television shows, and commercials how often do we see images of people eating a burger behind the wheel, sipping an iced tea? Not only are we bombarded with images of this in the media, but we also see it in our own lives, whether it is the person with whom we are carpooling or the stranger we see on the highway. Maybe we have done it, and maybe we want to give ourselves a free pass on this one, but we cannot.
It has to stop. No distracted driving activity should get a free pass; they are ALL contributing to the number one killer of teens in this country.
Put the chips away and resist that protein bar. Suffer through the thirst until you can pull over somewhere safe to take a break from your road trip. Change your morning ritual. Coffee is actually the worst offender of them all—it’s piping hot and risks spillage. And if the knowledge that you’re upping your odds of crashing is not enough, the knowledge that car crashes are the number one killer of teens is. Role model good driving behaviors. Every. Time.