This week the hottest of hot potatoes might just be, err, a hot potato. Or a burger, a bag of chips or a piece of the Colonel’s finest chicken.
Car insurer Direct Line and safety charity Brake have released a survey that, they claim, shows that 62% of people have admitted to eating or drinking behind the wheel.
Obviously the results of a survey carried out by two such bodies with absolutely no vested interest or bias whatsoever, could immediately be taken up by the most extreme road safety campaigners as reason enough to ban cars altogether, but there are two sides to this potato.
Some people live their lives on the road. I can speak as one of them, and normally, after days spent away from the future Mrs K, I want to get back home as quickly as I legally can.
Either that or I have to spend so much time at my desk that if I stop for a Whopper en route to the airport I’ll be able to wave goodbye to the plane I was meant to be on – and probably also to my job.
Whatever the distraction is, whether it’s a phone, a child or a bacon quadruple cheesepounder, you could kill someone."
Here’s where I think people in my situation think differently to our friends at Brake and Direct Line. Working lives are incredibly pressured; more so than they have been in generations, and the need not to ‘waste time’ is paramount in many employers’ minds. This brutalised notion of productivity doesn’t exactly sit with the “Oh, but Brake and Direct Line say…” excuse.
But, of course, it shouldn’t have any bearing. The law is the law and that’s that. Eating at the wheel might seem like the lesser of many evils but ultimately you’re not concentrating on the road. Whatever the distraction is, whether it’s a phone, a child or a bacon quadruple cheesepounder, you could kill someone.
The problem here is that employers don’t always regard stopping for 20 minutes to eat a meal as necessary. Getting to your next client early so that you can fit one more pitch in at the end of the day is a likelier priority. That has to stop.
As much as I dislike the sermonising of the prunes at Brake, beneath the dry preaching they’re right. But I don’t think anywhere near as many drivers would eat or drink at the wheel if they didn’t feel pressured to do so. Stopping at a service station along my second home (the M4) is usually quite pleasant, so if I didn’t have to rush I wouldn’t.
Perhaps safety campaigners could look a little deeper and focus their efforts on reducing the root cause of this problem. Prevention is better than the cure, and they should know that better than anyone.
Matt Kimberley is the motoring writer for BT.com, not a food critic. Although...
This article is the opinion of Matt Kimberley and not necessarily that of BT.