When driving, it pays to hold off on eating.

When you were young, your parents probably told you to wait two hours to swim after eating. But did anyone ever warn you against eating while driving? With the proliferation of drive-through fast food restaurants, it’s become an oddly accepted societal norm in this country—even though such behavior is actually quite dangerous.

What makes eating while driving dangerous?

When you engage in distracted driving of any kind, you put the safety of yourself and others at risk. Tennessee has passed laws against drunk driving and texting while driving. However, these are not the only forms of distracted driving. Distracted driving refers to any behavior that causes you to take:

  • Your attention away from driving,
  • Your eyes away from the road or
  • Your hands away from the wheel.

When you consume food or beverages while driving, you accomplish all three of these risky activities at once. This type of behavior increasing your chances of getting into an accident by 80 percent. While this statistic may sound startling, it actually makes sense.

Imagine you’re on a road trip. You stop by a burger joint to grab a quick lunch. Minutes later, you’re back on the freeway, eating as you drive. You go to take a bite, and a ketchup-covered pickle slips out and falls onto your lap—staining your pants. Your immediate reaction is to attend to the spill—even though you have no free hands to do so. Both hands are now off the wheel, and you’re splitting your attention between the road and the clean-up. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Eating while driving is an under-discussed form of distracted driving that nearly all of us are guilty of. To help avoid a devastating accident on the road, wait until you’re stationary to eat.