There are probably few if any drivers who haven’t at one time or another stopped at a drive-through and picked up breakfast or lunch, then eaten it while continuing to drive. It’s a common habit, one that you probably don’t think twice about and one you may think of as completely harmless.
While you might feel that what you do in your own vehicle is your business, eating is actually a form of distracted driving. In California, it’s possible to end up with a citation for distracted driving if you are caught eating while you’re behind the wheel under certain circumstances.
Types of Distracted Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distraction while driving as diverting your attention away from the task of driving so that you can focus on something else. Most people think of electronic devices when they think of distracted driving, such as paying attention to cell phones or GPS systems. Just as distracting are tasks such as eating, grooming and interacting with passengers.
Drivers often underestimate the risk involved in being distracted while driving to themselves, their passengers and other innocent people. Distractions that affect driving can be categorized as follows:
- Visual distractions which require you to look away from the road ahead
- Manual distractions which require you to take a hand off the steering wheel to attend to something else
- Cognitive distractions which cause you to think about something other than the task of driving
Citations for Distracted Driving
It’s against the law in California to drive while holding and operating a handheld wireless communication device such as a cell phone. Violation of this law can result in a fine of $20 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses.
In most cases, law enforcement probably won’t issue a citation simply for eating and driving as long as the driver is alert and in charge of the vehicle. Police can cite laws related to distracted driving whenever a driver’s hands, eyes, or attention are on something other than driving. If you’re pulled over for another offense such as speeding, you could also be cited for distracted driving if you’re eating behind the wheel.
Why is Eating While Driving Dangerous?
You might think that eating while driving is a pretty innocent activity and doesn’t affect your ability to drive. While this may be true in the majority of situations, eating while driving can suddenly become a bigger problem than you think.
Some things that could happen and potentially become pretty serious if you’re eating and driving include:
- Spilling hot liquid in your lap or on your hands and causing a burn
- Spilling food or drink on your clothes and looking away from the road to examine what happened
- Grasping your food rather than the steering wheel, causing you to be unable to maneuver the vehicle when needed when something unexpected suddenly happens
- Taking your attention away from driving to try to get food out of the packaging
- Dropping your food and looking to see where it went rather than focusing on what’s going on ahead of you
Accidents Caused by Distracted Drivers
Every year, thousands of people are injured in accidents caused by distracted driving. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by another driver’s distraction or negligence, it’s important to talk to an expert personal injury lawyer.
Here at Kuvara Law Firm, we have more than 40 years’ experience and have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for accident victims. Fill out our contact form and we’ll be in touch to set up a free consultation.