Motorhome insurance firms are urging owners to take note of a new academic report which reveals that driving whilst eating at the wheel has a huge effect on reaction times. The study was carried out by scientists at the University of Leeds who used a driving simulator and found that participant’s reaction times increased by 44% when the driver was eating at the wheel.
This means that if a drivers reaction time was five seconds on average when driving with two hands on the wheel it would increase to just over seven seconds when eating. The report also revealed that when sipping a drink, reaction times of the motorist increased by 22% compared to when driving with both hands on the steering wheel. Drivers are also 19% more likely to experience poorer lane control whilst drinking behind the wheel. Eating and drinking behind the wheel are not illegal activities in the United Kingdom but drivers can be charged by the police with careless driving if they feel that the driver is not in proper control of their vehicle as a result of these activities. Currently it is only driving whilst talking on a hand-held mobile phone that is illegal in the UK.
Participants made the most corrections to their driving when talking on a mobile phone with 76% having to make more adjustments to keep their steering in line with the road markings. Accompanying research showed that a worrying 81% of motorists do not understand the legislation around driving with one hand on the wheel; 32% were not sure whether eating whilst driving is an illegal activity and a further 27% were unsure of the rules around smoking and driving. The study also showed that 17% of drivers think it is ok to drive with just one hand on the wheel with almost half (48%) admitting they do this regularly and 8% have had an accident or near miss when fiddling with the car radio.
Motorhome drivers are behind the wheel a lot longer than the average car driver and they are being urged not to take a hand off the steering wheel to eat and drink. Road safety experts advise drivers setting off on long journeys to eat before leaving and plan regular breaks at service stations to help fuel any cravings whilst behind the wheel.