Pending Legislation Could Mean Fines For Munching While Driving

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Eating while driving. A lot of people do it every day. But startling new information has shown that the habit could be more dangerous than texting behind the wheel.

For commuters like Ryan Harrison, eating and driving is a daily routine.

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“It’s definitely a convenience. I just don’t have time. I’m a busy guy,” Harrison told CBS 2’s Dick Brennan.

The practice has become so widely accepted that some fast food restaurants even provide special containers that fit perfectly into car cup holders.

However, new research has shown that eating while driving is a greater distraction that talking on the phone or texting.

“You shouldn’t be eating or driving. Your mind is off the road, your eyes are off the road, and your hands are off the steering wheel,” Officer Juan Valdan said.

A study done by a British university found that drivers are less likely to maintain proper control of a car while eating and that reaction times were 44 percent slower than those who were not eating. Texting drivers were found to have a 37 percent slower reaction time.

“I have seen, personally, people with both hands off the wheel because they are holding their burrito or hamburger. And if they take a bite from it and they spill, what’s your first reaction? To clean up the mess,” Valdan said.

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Eating while driving can be so distracting that it can increase your chances of being in a car accident by 80 percent, according to the study.

In New Jersey, the state Assembly unanimously passed a bill that would make it illegal to eat and drive.

The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman John Wisniewski. He wants penalties to be the same as the ones for drivers who use their cellphones. A first offense would cost $200, a second would cost $400 to $600, and a third would cost $600 to $800.

The bill still has to go to the Senate, but critics have argued that you shouldn’t have to legislate common sense.

“I’m not going to be eating my hamburger if I’m trying to get across six lanes of traffic,” Harrison said.

The New Jersey bill could also outlaw other possible distractions like applying makeup or drinking coffee.

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