Almost anything can become a distraction to drivers in New Jersey, whether phones or billboards or conversations with passengers, but one of the most overlooked sources of distraction are foods and drinks. Eating and drinking can, after all, be a cognitive, visual and manual distraction at the same time. Cognitive distractions affect the mind, visual ones take the eyes from the road and manual ones force the hands away from the steering wheel.

Drivers who eat and drink are 3.6 times more likely to crash than are attentive drivers, according to a Lytx study from 2014. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that eating and drinking from an open container is a “secondary task distraction” and raises the risk of a crash or near-crash by almost 39%.

Eating and drinking involve lots of unsafe activities like unwrapping packaging, applying condiments and using napkins. Some foods and drinks will spill, and if they are hot, they can cause drivers to lose control entirely. NHTSA has a list of 10 foods and drinks that are especially dangerous for drivers, and it includes soup, tacos, hamburgers, fried chicken and coffee.

Drivers should always try to wait until they reach their destination in order to eat. If a long trip prevents them from doing this, they could consider pulling over.

So many motor vehicle accidents could be prevented if drivers took their duty of care to other road users more seriously. Those who are injured through a driver’s negligence, or failure to uphold this duty, and whose losses cannot be covered by personal injury protection may be able to file a third-party insurance claim. They may want a lawyer to help them achieve a fair settlement. In this state, plaintiffs can recover damages if they are 50% or less at fault.