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Fleet drivers risking crashes by eating and drinking at the wheel

The survey of 1,000 drivers by the road safety charity and Direct Line follows studies that suggest eating a meal at the wheel increases your risk of a devastating crash as much as talking on a phone. In May 2012 cyclist Joe Wilkins was killed by a driver who was eating a sandwich. The driver, Paul Brown, 30, was eating a sandwich and claims he didn't see Joe.

The Brake/Direct Line survey also reveals that in the past year that three in ten (29%) drivers have opened and eaten food at the wheel and a third (33%) have eaten food that was unwrapped and passed to them by a passenger.

The two firms says that the numbers of UK drivers eating at the wheel reflects the increasingly fast-paced nature of our lifestyles and comes as one in five drivers (20%) admit to doing their hair, applying make-up or otherwise tidying up their appearance while at the wheel. One in 20 (5%) admit doing so in free-flowing traffic, risking appalling crashes.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: ‘Eating at the wheel often means taking your eyes, hands and mind off the road and dramatically increases your chances of crashing and killing or seriously injuring someone. Drivers need to take regular breaks and make time away from their vehicles to enjoy lunch or perform other tasks. We are also appealing to government to increase fines for distraction and careless driving offences, to stop risky multi-tasking drivers.’

Brake adds that the recently introduced on-the-spot fines are a step in the right direction but argues the current £100 fine needs to be much higher to effectively deter this potentially deadly behaviour. 

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.