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The best foods to eat while driving

By: Insure.com
Posted: 9/24/2013 10:01:00 AM
Referenced Stocks:

Many state laws prohibit cell phone use and texting while driving, but there are no laws against eating while driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a driving distraction is "anything that diverts the driver's attention from the primary tasks of navigating the vehicle and responding to critical events."

Insure.com recently surveyed 1,500 drivers on the best foods to eat while driving. Drivers were widely divided in their top picks, but the humble candy bar squeaked out a first-place victory.

Rank

Food

Percent

1

Candy bar

16%

2

French fries

15%

3

Potato chips

9%

4

Chicken nuggets

8%

5

Doughnut

8%

6

Fresh fruit

8%

7

Hamburger

7%

8

Breakfast sandwich

6%

9

Other

6%

10

Sandwich

5%

11

Hot dog

3%

12

Ice cream cone

3%

13

Burrito

2%

14

Pizza

2%

15

Taco

2%

I'm not advocating eating and driving, but I know you're doing it, so in the spirit of public service I drove while eating each, and offer my findings below.

Candy bar

No snickers please, but I found this food item exceptionally easy to consume while in the driver's seat. My KitKat bar proved neat, petite and ultra sweet, confirming why candy bars earn their No. 1 ranking as the best food to eat while driving. Disaster potential: Low. About as safe as road food gets.

French fries

My order of fries from a fast food eatery came with so much grease I didn't know whether to eat or give my car a lube job. I safely negotiated the slippery task of consuming the fries while motoring, but will not do so again without a jumbo roll of paper towels riding shotgun. Disaster potential: Low. Residual greasy fingerprint potential: High.

Potato chips

Long experience eating chips behind the wheel rendered me an expert. With an open bag of Cool Ranch Doritos between my thighs, I gripped the wheel with my left hand and made regular trips from bag to mouth with my right. Only the chips -- not car bumpers or quarter panels -- crunched. Odd, though I had a paper napkin beside me, I found myself absent-mindedly favoring my right shorts leg and left T-shirt sleeve for crumb removal. Disaster potential: Low, but check your shirtfront before your next meeting.

Chicken nuggets

Driving safely while simultaneously consuming chicken nuggets is all about how well the open nuggets container is balanced on your knee. In my case, not well enough. When the nuggets had dwindled to two, I happened to brake suddenly, the box tipped and a little poultry patty ricocheted off my brake pedal. I veered 200 feet into a discount store parking lot and hurled the runaway nugget out a window. Disaster potential: Low, as long as you eat from both sides of the box … and pass on dipping sauces.

Doughnut

For this test, I chose a fancy air-inflated French doughnut drenched in white frosting. It was a piece of cake to munch even while negotiating a left-turn lane. Only the sudden plummet of a frosting chunk, which landed harmlessly on my seatbelt, marred the experience. Disaster potential: Low. Look for our future report on jelly-filled vs. cream.

Fresh fruit

A ripe, juicy pear seemed a daunting challenge, and it grew more daunting with every bite. The pear juice that did not drench my shirt rolled down my right hand, crossed my wrist, trickled down my arm and finally tickled my elbow. By the time I arrived home I needed a shower. Disaster potential: High. And you still have to deal with half-eaten cores.

Hamburger

I rolled through a quiet neighborhood holding a burger with all the fixin's. It quickly started shedding lettuce shreds and tomato seeds down my shirtfront. I thought of all the burger lovers in their cars, and wondered why the nation doesn't suffer more multicar pileups. Disaster potential: High. A juicy burger is America's Unseen Menace.

Breakfast sandwich

There's one teeny problem with eating an egg muffin while driving, and that's the egg. Mine was prone to escaping from the edge of the muffin. Monitoring plunging egg chunks while avoiding cars zooming at you at 40 or more mph is taking multitasking too far. Disaster potential: Modest. Crumb factor for biscuit-based sandwiches is off the charts.

Breakfast cereal

A baggie of dry breakfast cereal is often my commuting partner. When driving with cereal, size is a critical consideration. Wheat Chex is the right size for easy handling, Grape Nuts is not. Disaster potential: Low. Watch for inhaled Rice Krispies.

Sandwich

Given the other foods on this list, I went healthy with a Subway Veggie Delite sandwich piled to the brim with a dozen ingredients. As I drove and ate, the sandwich shed so many pickles, banana peppers, olives and bread crumbs, my pants soon qualified as a their own Subway franchise. Disaster potential: Modest. Risk and taste rise hand in hand.

Hot dog

Here in Chicago, it is sacrilege to put ketchup on a dog. Relish, yes, mustard, indubitably, but no ketchup. If you're like me and choose French's traditional mustard on your dog while driving, I recommend you wear yellow. You'll do so eventually anyway. Disaster potential: Modest. It's the beer needed to make a hot dog taste great that's the problem.

Ice cream cone

A cone's peril is directly proportional to temperature. During a late-summer heat wave, the challenge was significant. I selected tiramisu gelato in a sugar cone, and try as I might couldn't avoid the drips moving from cone to hand to steering wheel, ruining my concentration. Disaster potential: High. Eating quickly to defeat drips leads to brain freeze.

Burrito

In an act of reckless abandon, I chose a fast-food bean burrito for this trial. Molten hot and near-liquid in consistency, the bean filling threatened to erupt into my lap. Eating the burrito while trying to navigate the road ahead left almost as much bean on my face as in my mouth. Disaster potential: High. Bib suggested.

Pizza

Carrying a to-go slice of Sbarro pizza just slightly smaller than a tabletop, I hit the road. The only possible way to consume this huge triangle of crust, cheese and spinach was to place most of my head inside its three-sided container. That limited my eating to stops at red lights. Had I answered yes to one question from the Sbarro counter girl -- "Would you like sauce on that?" -- I would have had to pay for detailing of my car's interior. Disaster potential: High. Mouth burn, slice collapse, grease seepage.

Taco

The chicken taco in this test was blanketed in a thousand shreds of lettuce and cheese, increasing odds that the shell, lettuce, cheese and chicken chunks would shower like a hail storm onto my shirt, lap, car seat and floor mats. By keeping the taco nestled in its paper cradle and shoveling it into my mouth stevedore-style, I kept my car and clothes fairly taco-free. Disaster potential: High, and virtually guaranteed. A taco that doesn't shatter when bitten into isn't really a taco.

Heading out for a drive? McDonald's ranked highest for road-friendly food.

Survey methodology

Insure.com surveyed 1,500 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 July 2013.