Can You Get a Ticket for Eating while Driving?

It is unlikely that a police officer will issue you a ticket for eating while driving because there is no law in any state making it illegal to eat and drive. Laws in 48 states make it illegal to text while driving because it distracts drivers and causes accidents. Nevertheless, those laws don’t apply to getting distracted because you are busy with eating or you are holding a food in your hand.

The wordings of distracted driving laws are getting more extensive to a point that engaging in any activity not related to driving can be considered a ticketable offense.  Yet, things like putting on makeup, playing with your dog and eating or drinking aren’t alone a good enough reason for a distracted driving ticket. Drivers must exhibit signs that they are not paying attention to the road ahead. Then, a police officer can issue a distracted driving citation, regardless of the reason.

However, a driver can be charged with careless or distracted driving when they exhibit signs of not being in control like swerving no matter what the cause is. If you fail to pay attention to the road because you were goofing around, arguing with your spouse or eating, you can get a careless driving ticket for disregarding the safety of others. A careless driving citation comes with a fine and points on license.

Again, even if you caused an accident because you were eating at the time, you may not be charged for reckless driving, which requires deliberate or excessive ignorance for the safety of other people and this condition isn’t met by just eating.

However, if you were eating while you should have been extra careful, you can be charged with reckless driving because the cumulative behaviour confirms disregard to people’s safety. Any of the below actions with eating could be considered reckless endangerment.

  • Eating while driving in school zone
  • Speeding as well as eating
  • Eating in heavy traffic or bad weather conditions like poor visibility or icy roads

Also, even if police didn’t charge you for careless or reckless driving, third parties or their legal representatives can claim negligence once you are confirmed to be the at-fault driver in an accident and you were eating at the time. They can argue that you should have known you are likely to be distracted by eating while driving.

On its own, getting caught eating while driving isn’t enough to get a ticket. Nevertheless, motorists can get tickets for showing signs of a distracted driver and eating at the time isn’t an excuse for the behaviour.

For example, losing the control of the vehicle when there was no obvious reason like icy roads and crashing into another car can lead to reckless driving charges, especially when there are injuries and a conviction can lead to jail sentence.

We already know that eating while driving increases the chances of getting distracted and involved in an accident. There is plenty of statistical evidence for it.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that motorists are about 60% more likely to cause accidents because they are eating while driving and they are about 40% more likely to crash when they are looking or reaching out for food. So, distractions caused by eating and driving are real and increase the chance of accidents.

Taking your eyes off the road to find your food, concentrating on cleaning something you spilled over your clothes, getting burned with a hot drink or failing to grip your steering wheel with greasy hands are some of the obvious dangers. Also, having a biscuit or candy isn’t the same as placing a tray of food with a burger, chips, ketchup and drink on your lap, getting busy with the wrappers and trying to stuff them in your mouth.

Motorists are constantly warned against eating while driving. The laws don’t outlaw eating while driving because they expect people to be able to judge the difference between eating an apple and a full meal and don’t want to infringe people’s rights. Besides, people don’t always need laws to know the difference between right and wrong, safe and dangerous.