Is it illegal to eat while driving?

Everyone gets the munchies on the road. The question is; is it illegal to chow down on a meal while you’re at the wheel? 

The answer is more convoluted than you might think, as eating whilst driving is not necessarily illegal in Australia. However, distracted driving is another story. So, whether you are snacking on some chips on a long road trip or having breakfast on the go, is there a potential fine waiting for you around the corner? Read on to find out whether it is illegal to eat while driving. 

What is distracted driving? 

The distracted driving laws in Australia are primarily focused on mobile phones and their usage whilst driving. Hefty fees for distracted driving can apply with varying severity depending on which state you’re in. The following list contains the Australian States and Territories and the respective fines that can be issued for distracted driving:

–       Queensland = $1000 and is renowned as the state with the strictest road rules.

–       Western Australia = $1000

–       South Australia = $544

–       Northern Territory = $500

–       Victoria = $496

–       The ACT = $480 

–       NSW = $349

–       Tasmania = $344

What is the real risk?

Although these are the maximum amount that you could be fined, there is no sure way of saying that eating whilst driving will result in paying $1000, as the police officer will use their own discretion in determining the fine or penalty. Notwithstanding, Road Rules 2014 (NSW) regulation 297 states that a driver must not drive if they do not have complete control of the vehicle. This raises the question; is it proven that eating while driving will cause a driver to lack control? Studies have found that the reaction time of drivers who are eating have slower reaction times, and therefore less control over their vehicle.

Although there is no law in Australia that specifically prohibits eating whilst driving, if there is an accident on the road due to a person eating or drinking (a non-alcoholic beverage) and driving, this may be deemed as negligence by the insurance company and will likely result in fines and penalties. 

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Should I eat while driving?

Although it is not explicitly stated in Australian law that a driver cannot eat whilst driving, this does not mean that a person will not be fined for negligence in the case of an accident. Australian drivers should reconsider eating their meal on the road, and instead opt to pull over safely at the next service station or rest stop.

If you have any queries, or are unsure of other road laws specific to your jurisdiction, you should seek legal advice. Our sister company Legal Kitz can assist with ensuring that your concerns are addressed, and can provide you with advice that is tailored to your situation. You can book a free 30-minute consultation via their website now. Alternatively, check out our article to see whether it is illegal to sleep in your car in NSW.

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