Mobile phone usage while driving has increased since 2009, but the AA also reports 73.4 per cent of motorists admit to eating or drinking a non alcoholic beverage while driving at least occasionally.
Of the 22,000 motorists who participated in the AA poll, 3.4 per cent admitted to a highly distracting activity every single day.
A county by county analysis of the AA poll data suggests Kilkenny drivers are most likely to engage in the habit either daily or regularly. Some 6.3 per cent admitted that snacking while driving was part of their daily routine.
Tipperary and Westmeath drivers appear to be the most likely to eat and drive on a daily or regular basis, while Dubliners are the least likely to do so.
“Many motorists don’t register that eating while driving is a dangerous habit to fall into,” says John Farrell, director of AA Motor Insurance. “Combining eating with driving can significantly reduce awareness levels, which in turn impacts on driver reaction times.
“Lots of people will have a cup of coffee bought from a garage and they will have it in their cup holder as they drive. There’s no reason why drivers shouldn’t do that, but they have to be sensible. They certainly shouldn’t be fumbling with the cup while on the move. A simple incident like the lid coming off and coffee spilling could become disastrous.”
Other worrying self-inflicted driving distractions highlighted during the AA poll were reading while driving and personal grooming. More than 14 per cent of those polled admitted to occasionally reading a book or newspaper while in traffic; 7.5 per cent admitted to brushing their hair; 3.4 per cent to changing their clothes; and 1.9 per cent to flossing their teeth from the driving seat at some time or another.
More than 23 per cent % of female respondents admitted to applying makeup and 10 per cent admitted to having painted their nails at least occasionally while driving. Four per cent of male drivers also confessed to using an electric shaver every now and then while in charge of a vehicle.
The AA also highlights SatNavs as a potential source of distraction. In an earlier AA poll, conducted last November, 38.6 per cent of SatNav owners admitted to having argued with their passenger because of their SatNav; 44.8 per cent to swearing at the device; and 9.3 per cent to having a near miss or a collision.
“Driver distraction is any activity that causes a driver to take their eyes, hands or mind away from driving. When distracted, reaction time can double which significantly increases the chance of having a collision. While drivers cannot control distractions outside their vehicles, they can and should do something about what goes on inside.”
Other examples of avoidable driver distraction offered by the AA are changing CDs, tuning in the radio, use of MP3 player, smoking, talking with passengers, tending to children, and referring to road maps.