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The best foods to eat while driving: Insure.com survey 2019

Driving eating candy barCandy bars are king when it comes to the best foods to eat while driving, followed by granola bars and French fries, while tacos, yogurt and nachos are the worst for munching motorists, according to an Insure.com survey.

Though 70 percent of drivers surveyed say they consider eating behind the wheel to be distracted-driver behavior, more than a third do it regularly and nearly half do it on trips longer than an hour.

Insure.com surveyed 1,000 drivers and asked them how often they eat and drive and why, how much danger they think it poses, if it’s resulted in an accident and what their favorite meals on wheels are.

Best and worst food to eat while driving

Despite the popularity of fast-food drive through windows, hamburgers, subs, chicken nuggets, wraps, tacos and burritos were low on the list of what’s considered the best food to eat while driving.

FoodPercent who ranked it as best
Candy bar38%
Granola bar or energy bar35%
French fries29%
Potato chips (or other snack pretzels, popcorn etc. that comes in a bag)18%
Fresh fruit10%
Chicken nuggets9%
Breakfast sandwich6%
Hot Dog4%
Ice cream cone3%
Sandwich or sub2%

Why motorists dine behind the dashboard

Long commutes and convenience are the top reasons why drivers eat, according to the survey. Here’s what they said when asked reasons why they eat and drive:

Reason for eating and drivingPercent of drivers
I have a long commute28%
I really don’t enjoy it but it’s convenient so I do it27%
I am always rushing and don’t have time to eat at home or at restaurant24%
I like to save time so I have more time at my destination18%
I rarely cook4%

The most distracting eating and driving maneuvers

Motorists said getting the food out of its packaging and reaching for that stray salt packet or french fry were the most challenging tasks when eating and driving.

Most distracting maneuverPercent of drivers
Unwrapping food34%
Reaching for something -- a salt packet, napkin or stray fry -- in the bottom of a bag30%
Wiping a spill or stain17%
Putting salt, ketchup, salsa or other condiment on food9%
Stashing the trash ( food wrapping or containers/napkins) in the car somewhere7%

How often drivers eat on the road

While 18 percent never eat and drive, four percent do so twice a day; nearly half do on trips an hour or more long.

How often drivers eatPercent
Only on trips that are an hour or more49%
Once or twice a week23%
More than twice a week7%
Once or twice a day4%

How does eating and driving compare to other distracted driving behavior?

When asked to rank distracted driving behavior on a scale from 1 (not distracting at all) to 5 (very distracting), eating ranked lowest among them, but not by much.

BehaviorAverage score
Talking on a cellphone while driving3.19
Fiddling with music players, GPS or other electronic devices/features3.16
Texting while driving3.07
Children’s activities in the car3.05
Eating while driving2.94

Tickets and accidents from eating and driving

Twelve percent of those surveyed say eating and driving has caused them to be in an accident, while 16 percent report a “near miss,” and five percent were pulled over for a traffic violation.

IncidentPercent of drivers
Had a near miss16%
Got into a fender bender (damage under $2,000)8%
Got into a major accident (damage over $2,000)4%
Got pulled over by police for traffic violation5%
I've never had an incident, come close to one or received a ticket.74%

Eating while driving and distracted driver laws

Driver eating friesThough nearly all states ban texting and talking on a hand-held phone while driving, few have specific laws making eating illegal while operating a vehicle. One exception is Washington, where legislators passed a law in July of 2017 stipulating that eating, and applying makeup, are illegal while driving.

The Governors Highway Safety Administration hailed it as an important step toward stemming deaths from distracted driving.

Each day in the United States, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Still, many states have distracted driving or reckless driving laws that could encompass eating while driving, even though the language isn’t explicit. For example, in California, police may cite you under the general speed restriction law for eating and driving, as it may be deemed reckless or unsafe, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety. Georgia has made headlines for ticketing motorists eating under its distracted driving law.

Those convicted under the Washington distracted driver law will be $136 for the first offense and $234 for the second, and the violation will be reported to your insurance company and will appear on your driver’s record.

Distracted driving tickets: How much your insurance goes up

An Insure.com rate analysis shows that car insurance rates rise 22 percent, on average, for a distracted driving ticket, which is about the same as texting ticket or speeding ticket. So, as an example, if your annual car insurance rate is $1,300, an increase of 22 percent would be $286 a year. That breaks down to around an extra $24 per month. You could also lose good or safe driver discounts, which would be a loss of a discount generally worth 10 to 25 percent. That means your rates could rise by another $20 or more per month.

Survey methodology

Insure.com commissioned Op4g to survey 1,000 licensed drivers age 25 and older. Respondents were split evenly between males and females and distributed across age groups in line with Census age data. The online-panel survey was fielded in April 2019 and April 2018.

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