From Florida to California and Washington to Maryland, there are laws that prohibit drinking and driving. These, of course, refer to drinking alcoholic beverages in excess of legal limits prior to, or while operating, a motor vehicle. Year by year, these are becoming increasingly restrictive. Across the country cellphone, texting, and distracted driving laws are getting progressively stricter. Is it, however, illegal to eat and drive? Is eating while driving illegal in Pennsylvania, Virginia, or any other state? The answer is a bit complicated.
Driving While Eating Laws
For many, a quick trip through the drive-thru and eating while on the road is a part of life. It is not uncommon to see someone next to you on the road eating while driving. It may not be the best of ideas, but is it illegal to eat and drive?
There’s good news and bad news for those who like to dash and dine. The good news is that presently, states do not specifically have driving while eating laws. The bad news for drive-thru aficionados? That is beginning to change. States are starting to include eating and driving statutes into their distracted driving laws.
New Distracted Driving Law in Washington
In July of 2017, Washington State became the latest state to totally ban cellphone use in vehicles. Drivers can now be cited even if they are just holding a cellphone while driving.
It is a primary law in the state, allowing officers to cite a driver when they witness the behavior. What’s gaining attention though, is their new distracted driving law also contains a provision for a $99 ticket for other types of distracted driving. Now, eating, grooming, reading, and even smoking when operating a vehicle can lead to a citation. It is a secondary law that can result in a ticket if the activity is the cause of unsafe driving and if drivers are pulled over for another offense. These secondary offenses, it should be noted, are often the first step to an infraction becoming a primary offense.
For example, most states initially enacted seat belt and distracted driving laws as secondary offenses. Today, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) says that 34 states and the District of Columbia have primary seat belt laws. Only one state (New Hampshire) has no seat belt law. The GHSA provides a complete state by state listing of distracted driving laws and whether they are primary or secondary laws.
Distracted Driving and Eating While Driving
Eating while driving may not be specifically mentioned in the distracted driving laws of most states, yet. That, however, doesn’t mean eating while driving won’t lead to a citation. There are laws against unsafe driving and reckless operation that may come into play if you are driving erratically or if eating while driving leads to an accident or injury.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that when taking your eyes off the road for just five seconds at 55 mph, you will travel the length of a football field. Think about that as you reach over to dip your French fry in some ketchup while driving.
Is eating while driving illegal where you live?
Odds are it is not specifically prohibited. With statistics from the CDC stating that 9 people are killed and over 1,000 injured every day due to distracted driving, however, you should ask yourself if you’re feeling lucky. You can also expect lawmakers to likely continue to enact more strict distracted driving laws until those statistics begin to get better.