Distracted Eating and Driving - Is It Illegal?
Eating While Driving in California - It Can Kill.
The answer to the above question is yes and no. Whether eating and driving are illegal depends upon the given circumstances. But one thing is clear, eating and driving is unsafe and should be avoided.
"There's no specific law for somebody eating a cheeseburger and driving a vehicle," another CHP officer tells Fox40. "But unfortunately we have some drivers who don't have the ability to multitask." (Thanks for ruining the commute for the rest of us, guys). Since California's law requiring hands-free devices took effect in 2008, the CHP has written 518,161 citations statewide. They have written 11,634 tickets for texting while driving.
Driver distraction is anything that can cause your eyes to veer from the road, unless it encompasses operating necessary vehicle controls, such as a turn signal, for example. The result of inattentive driving is almost always a car accident resulting in death or serious injury.
Distracted driving comes in many forms, including:
- Cell phone use.
- Drinking nonalcoholic beverages.
- You are talking with people on your Bluetooth.
- Applying makeup.
- Entering GPS coordinates, etc.
Above are just a few perilous activities existing when operating a motor vehicle. Distraction can reference the occupation of a driver’s attention, hands, or eyes on something other than driving. No specific California Vehicle Code Section is dealing with eating or drinking non-alcoholic beverages behind the wheel while operating a motorized vehicle. But, as will be discussed, other laws are dealing with safely driving that do apply.
And there are also the basic rules of common sense. But first, let's take a trip down memory lane to discover the historical rise of fast food, and eating while driving accidents in the Golden State. Most of us who grew up in Southern California remember how fun it was to see and hear the big "Jack-In-Box" ask us what we wanted to order as we pulled into the drive-thru. Some of us are old enough to remember the Hamburgler and Ronald McDonald, the clown.
My kids still love getting a Happy Meal Box and digging out the toy prize. And it makes sense that California, with its vast spaces and fast-paced lifestyle, would be the home of the drive-thru. Most of us are too young to remember the Happy Days diners of the 50s and 60s.
But a sea change in eating habits began to take place in Southern California in the late 40s and early 50s, altering the eating landscape of the world and the California car culture. McDonald's started its first fast-food restaurant chain in San Bernardino, CA, in 1948. Karl Karcher started Carls Jr. in Anaheim and Brea, CA, in 1956.
Many more fast food places began taking off in the 70s and 80s. The key is to get the commuter in and out with hot food, or a cold drink and fries quickly, so you can cover distance and get on the freeway before rush hour hits. Most of all, eating and driving are part of the California experience. With Billions served, McDonald's is the undisputed fast-food king when it comes to the drive-thru.
- Los Angeles Car Culture and Timing Your Drive Means Using a Drive-Thru?
Sometimes using a drive-thru can mean the difference between 20 minutes to get somewhere, and sitting in traffic for hours. Living in Los Angeles, due to its vast geography and crazy rush hour traffic, means that destinations close to your departure point in heavy traffic can take just as long to arrive at as farther away places in light traffic.
But what if you are hungry after a hard day at work? Maybe you miss your wife and kids and don't have time to eat at a dine-in facility and make it home on time. So part of the Los Angeles car culture means knowing how to time grabbing your coke, burger, and fries before heading back to Long Beach, for example.
In other words, if you leave work from Downtown Los Angeles before the main traffic congestion periods, you stand a much better chance of getting home before a crash slows the freeway so drivers can gawk at the accident. What matters most is that there are a lot more people eating and driving behind the wheel than any other time in U.S. or world history, and expected to rise.
Noteworthy here is with the rise of drive-through coffee houses like Starbucks, a specific type of driving accident has increased, hot liquid burns caused crashes. So if you were not already distracted enough using your free hand to sip on coffee, now you can deal with hot liquids in your lap.
If You Think Distracted Driving While Eating Was Dangerous - Consider Hot Liquid Burns to Your Genitals.
How Do Police Cite People for Eating and Driving?Most specific laws dealing with an inattentive driving incident focus on the number one driving distraction, smartphones, and texting, under California Vehicle Code Section 23123.5. But this law is a catch-all, dealing with an “electronic wireless communications device.” And it excepts explicitly hands-free devices, which is still quite distracting.
- Distracted Eating and Driving is "Reckless Driving"?
Under California's vehicle code, a driver can be ticketed $145 to $1,000 for having “wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Officers will also be tracking these distractions and the number of distracted drivers, because there are not very good data on just how many distracted drivers there are. (See California Vehicle Code Section 23103)Anyone stuffing their face behind the wheel of a car is not paying attention to the road. And obviously, they don't have both hands on the steering wheel. And that endangers the safety of motorists and pedestrians all over the state. If a cop observes you eating or sipping on a beverage and driving, they could pull you over for an investigative traffic stop and write you a traffic ticket. So the cop and you using common sense can make all the difference.
What Do Statistics Say About Eating While Driving Dangers?As noted above, eating and drinking behind the wheel of a car is a form of driver distraction that causes staggering accidents. The statistics show:
- Distracted driving "claimed 2,841 lives in 2018 alone," which is down from 3,450 killings in 2016. the 2018 figures included 1,730 vehicle drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians, and 77 people riding bicycles died. (See National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Statistics)
- ExxonMobil's survey of 1,000 drivers exposed that 70% of the people surveyed admitted to eating food while driving.
- And a staggering 83% of those surveyed admitted to drinking beverages while driving.
- Lyxt, which is a global driver risk management company, claims that drinking or eating while driving places vehicle operators at 3.6 times greater risk of being in a traffic collision "than focused drivers who stay away from any distraction."
- The NHTSA estimates eating or drinking while behind the wheel creates an 80% greater risk of a crash than a driver focused on the road.
- NHTSA also asserts that 65% of so-called near-miss accidents are by vehicle operators who are consuming food or beverages.
What Do Experts Consider To Be The Most Dangerous Food Items to Consume While Driving?Instructional and interesting, the NHTSA created a list of dangerous to eat food items while driving.
- Jelly and cream-filled pastries.
- Powdered doughnuts.
- Barbecued Food.
- Fried Chicken.
- Soft drinks.