Is It Legal To Eat While You Drive?

You’re running late for a morning meeting and you jump in the car with a piece of toast dangling out of your mouth. You happily nibble on the toast as you steer the car with one hand, content that you’ve avoided a case of the hangries and you’re on track to arrive at your destination on time. But is eating while you drive legal?

A 2015 research paper by the Griffith Health Institute in Queensland found that eating while driving could be just as dangerous as texting while driving.

“The results basically indicate that the trials involving texting or eating when driving both caused about the same amount of decrement to driving performance”, Griffith Health Institute lead researcher on the project Dr Chris Irwin told SBS.

But how many of us have been guilty of munching on a snack behind the wheel? Many, I’m sure.

There are now laws that prohibit drivers from texting while operating a vehicle. So are the any laws against eating while driving?

Currently, there are no laws in any state or territory that specifically prohibits eating food or drinking (non-alcoholic) beverages while driving. However, under the Australian Road Rules 297(1), it states that “a driver must not drive a vehicle unless the driver has proper control of the vehicle”.

According to the NRMA blog:

“These types of offences are assessed on a case by case basis, including whether an incident occurred and are subject to a $433 fine and three demerit points [in NSW]. In school zones, the penalty increases to $541 with 4 demerit points.”

Eating and driving may be considered a cause of distraction when incidents are investigated. If the police decide your mobile picnic is causing you to drive erratically they are allowed to fine you – even if no specific road rules have been broken.

In short, eating while you drive isn’t explicitly illegal but you should consider whether it will compromise your ability to have full control of your vehicle. Driving with one hand off the wheel so you can partake in a snack definitely fits into this category.

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.

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