First, they took virtual rides through an urban route without eating or drinking anything. After that, they repeated the task while sucking down bagged snacks and bottled water. Reseachers found that even though the drivers compensated by slowing down, they still couldn't react quickly enough to avoid colliding with the simulation's virtual pedestrians. In fact, 90% of the crashes recorded occured during the act of eating or drinking.
Dr. Mark Young, the lead researcher, says that the circumstances surrounding eating and drinking while driving make those activities more dangerous than other "menial in-car tasks."
We understand the good doctor's reasoning and generally agree with what he has to say, but we'd like to know if his list of "menial in-car tasks" includes "finding a song three menus deep on an iPod," because while we're not university researchers, we're pretty sure that's way more distracting than reaching into a bag of M&Ms.
Finally, we'd be interested in using the research sims to recreate a typical morning interstate commute sans coffee. We're guessing that the elimination of that particular piping-hot, crotch-threatening caffeinated beverage from the cupholder could result in pileups reminiscent of the ones in the most dramatic CHiPs episodes.
Photo courtesy of Seriouswheels.com