Is It Legal To Eat While You Drive?

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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.


Comments

    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.

    In that case they might as well start banning manual cars. I drive manual and unless I'm driving on a freeway I spend probably 70-80% of my time with one hand on the wheel (cause the other needs to be on the gearstick).

    It's not about whether you have only one hand on the wheel. It's about being distracted. You can easily eat while driving without taking your eyes off the road, however if a piece of cheese falls out of your sandwich and onto your lap, and you glance down to look for it for a moment, that could constitute as driving recklessly.

      That's not quite the same thing - when your hand is resting on the gear stick you can immediately return it to the wheel if you need to turn suddenly. When you're holding a burger or can of drink, this is a lot trickier to pull off.

        Actually proper driving of a Manuel car requires you to have your hands on the wheel at all times unless changing gears, as leaving you hand on the gear shift is the main cause of skipping and being rear ended. under your reasoning it would makes no defecne as you have just replaced a gear shift with a burger

    1: Thanks for bringing this to our attention, I'd certainly like to know about things which might help me drive better. Instead of framing it in terms of law, it would be more useful if it were in the context of a wider survey of contributors to driver failures.

    2: It would be more believable and compelling if it was based on sources additional to a single journal article hidden behind a paywall.

      Laws may be different now but in my time learning it was both hands on the wheel at all times with the exception of unless using vehicle controls.

    That was never an actual law, just recommended practice.
    And bringerofmuffins, do you really ned this brought to your attention? Surely it's common sense. If you need to be told that eating a sandwich (which I often do) is a little distraction, maybe you should never drive.

    NO, NO, NO, NO a thousand times .....there is a law, it refers to performing other activities when in control of a moving vehicle.
    Controlling a moving vehicle anywhere in the world requires 100 percent concentration.
    Remember always that police, their forensics, their crash/collision investigators are very clever and brilliant individuals in the job they do, in a crash/collision, if you were doing more than controlling at100%, the vehicle you are driving YOU WILL BE DEEMED TO BE THE CAUSE, even if someone collides with your vehicle.......you could have hit the brakes instead of sucking on a stupid sanger or burger or drinking your drug,,COFFEE......putting on lipstick...females, boys flicking their hair.......and killing everyone on the highway when sending text messages.
    If and when I see ANYONE performing other tasks instead of driving .....my all-round car-cam SD card visits a police station.
    A driving licence is a contract for a driver to obey the rules of the road, driving outside these rules puts the driver in control of a DANGEROUS WEAPON which can kill .... the licence is NOT James Bond issue, you are NOT 007.....many rev-heads think they are.......

    Last edited 25/01/17 8:01 pm

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