Eating 'slows driver reactions'

Drivers who eat or drink behind the wheel see their reaction times almost double, according to a new university report.

Researchers at the University of Leeds conducted a study using a driving simulator and a series of tests for participants. The scientists found that driver reaction times increased by 44% when eating behind the wheel.

Similarly, the reaction times of motorists drinking while driving increased by 22% when compared to driving with both hands firmly gripped on the steering wheel.

The findings demonstrate the considerable extra time required to react when drivers do not concentrate solely on the road.

For example, if a motorist's average reaction time was three seconds with both hands on the wheel, this extends to 4.5 seconds when eating. The academic report, entitled Two Hands Better Than One, concluded that the longer reaction times were down to the distraction of eating or drinking as drivers had to unwrap food or open bottles.

As a result of these distractions, drivers were 18% more likely to be unable to maintain a steady lane position.

Copyright Press Association 2012