The Dumbest Things People Do Behind the Wheel
Is that you eating dinner in the driver's seat?
Nearly 80 percent of the 10 million car accidents ever year in the United States stem from “driver inattention,” according to a study by the National Highway Traffic Administration. In other words, we crash because we’re distracted — and not just by cell phones. Think behind-the-wheel eating, shoe changes and even reading. (Yes, reading. Books. At least one driver admitted to reading Harry Potter in the driver’s seat.)
You’ve no doubt witnessed some pretty stupid behavior through your own windshield. These are some of the most common ill-advised stunts. Are you guilty of any?
People are known for eating on the go, but some people are taking the concept too far. In Ottawa, Canada, a man was arrested after weaving all over the road while attempting to eat an entire rotisserie chicken.
The driver of a BMW caused a three-car smash-up around suppertime in Dayton, Ohio while chowing down on a meal. A driver in Sacramento, California who was snacking on a taco at 3:30 a.m. plowed into two parked cars and flipped his own after taking his eyes off the road to wipe some crumbs off of his lap. And shortly after leaving a Waffle House in Blacksburg, South Carolina, a woman eating takeout wrecked her truck and lost her life. "It appears she was eating while driving and became distracted," local coroner Dennis Fowler told reporters.
Even professional drivers make the mistake of munching behind the wheel, including FedEx trucker Edward Sutherland, who jackknifed a semi near Blaine, Washington while choking on spicy pork rinds (he escaped with only minor injuries).
It’s often hard to prove that eating or drinking hot beverages caused an accident — but some motorists fess up. Lieutenant Paul Reinsch with Missouri Highway Patrol recalls a crash in which a driver admitted she lost control after she dowsed herself with hot coffee.
Moral of the story: If you want a sit-down meal, eat it while sitting somewhere else.
“Just a couple of days ago, I was working with a new driver on a lesson in a high traffic area with a speed [limit] of 40 mph,” says Lois Lents, a Pacific Drivers Education instructor in Gresham, Oregon. “We saw a man struggling to take off a jacket while driving. He was leaning forward and had both hands behind his back as he veered erratically down the road.”
In one of the stranger recent cases, a 54-year-old driver was pulled over in Brookfield, Wisconsin while returning from the state fair. Hot and sweaty, the driver had decided to change into different clothes and undressed behind the wheel, apparently removing even his briefs. He was let off with a warning against indecent exposure.
Other accidents have had more tragic consequences, including a crash by a woman allegedly high on narcotics who was attempting to slip off a sweater. The crash claimed the life of three people and landed her in prison for eight years .
Moral of the story: Need a wardrobe adjustment? Pull over.
Cars trips play host to many an argument, but some drivers go so far as to get into fistfights.“There have been cases where people [are] fighting in vehicles and a passenger grabs and yanks the steering wheel, causing the vehicle to crash,” says Trooper Chelsea Stuenkel of the Nevada Highway Patrol.
In March 2015 the issue became personal for a police force in North Carolina when a driver fighting with a passenger slammed straight into their police department headquarters. Witnesses saw the driver being struck by a passenger just before the crash.
Moral of the story: Keep your hands on the wheel and let hotheads find another ride.
A 2010 survey from AAA found that 21 percent of American drivers who transported their dogs in the last year said they let the pooch ride on their lap. Five percent admitted to playing with the dog while driving, and 7 percent said they'd fed or given water to the dog while driving. Nearly a third said the dog, wherever it was sitting, had distracted them.
Some drivers have been spotted roaring down the highway with their dog or cats on their laps or draped around their neck like a muff.
Driving with a pet in your lap is not just unsafe for you, it’s unsafe for the animal. Even if the car is going only 35 miles per hour, a 60-pound dog can hit the windshield, car seat or a passenger with a force of 2,700 pounds, according to the website BarkBuckleUp.com.
Some states are considering laws to make it illegal to drive with a dog in your lap. And at least one person has been stopped for driving with too many pets: This Week reports that South Dakota's Supreme Court sided with police who stopped a woman in 2010 with 15 cats in her car. “The woman…didn't even see the patrol car behind her because cats were huddled in her rear window.”
Moral of the story: Leave the pets at home, or make sure they’re properly restrained.
So many women are applying makeup while driving that Volkswagon has created a public service video about it.
In a United Kingdom survey, one in five women reported applying makeup while driving — and 3 percent admitted that putting on makeup caused them to crash. Based on this data, the Daily Mail estimated that women beautifying themselves behind the wheel are responsible for almost half a million crashes in the U.K. a year.
In the United States, a recent study by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute revealed that putting on lipstick, mascara and other makeup while driving can increase your crash risk by three times. By contrast, the study found talking on the phone increased the risk only 1.3 times.
Moral of the story: The lipstick can wait — and men, so can the shave.
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