Are There Laws Against Eating While Driving?

Cars in fast food drive thru line

The most common distractions we think of while driving include texting, talking, and emailing. That, however, is not where the distractions stop. In 2015, an Alabama man received a ticket in Atlanta, Georgia after he was found to be eating and driving. This caused some serious debate as to what is considered distracted driving. As a result, Georgia has been in the process of reworking their distracted driving bill.

If you’re a resident of Georgia and you drive, it’s crucial to be aware of the state laws that affect how you operate behind the wheel. While there are no specific laws that ban eating while driving, Georgia’s Hands-Free law contains wording that could lead to fines if a person is found to be distracted while eating and operating a vehicle.

The Dangers of Eating While Driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving claimed 3,166 lives in 2017. While the majority of the accidents were related to cell phone use, there were others that were caused by other distractions like eating.

With busy schedules, fast food drive-thrus often seem like a convenient way to eat a meal without wasting any time. It’s important to remember, however, that any activity that takes your attention away from the task of driving is dangerous. Eating behind the wheel comes with more distractions that many realize. For example, if a driver orders a fast food cheeseburger, they’ll need to take it out of the bag, unwrap it, apply condiments, use napkins, eat, and wipe up spills all while operating a vehicle.

With all of those tasks needing to take place just to eat a cheeseburger, it’s no surprise that accidents happen when drivers choose to eat behind the wheel.

The Most Dangerous Food to Eat Behind the Wheel

According to the NHTSA, there are some foods that should never be consumed behind the wheel. The following foods are considered dangerous because of their likelihood to burn the driver, spill, or give the driver sticky hands:

  • Coffee
  • Hot Soup
  • Tacos
  • Chili Dogs
  • Hamburgers
  • Barbecued Foods
  • Fried Chicken
  • Powdered, Jelly, or Cream-Filled Doughnuts
  • Carbonated Beverages
  • Chocolate

Georgia’s Hands-Free Law

On July 1, 2018, Georgia’s Hands-Free Law took effect. This law was put in place because of the increase in vehicle crashes, injuries, and fatalities. The legislature noticed a pattern in the accidents. The majority were rear-end and single-car collisions by drivers from 15 to 25-years-old. State law enforcement noted driver inattention as a primary cause of many of these collisions. The updated law increases restrictions for what drivers cannot do behind the wheel. Most of the law revolves around cell phone use. According to the law, drivers must abide by the following:

  • Drivers are not allowed to have a phone in their hand or touch any part of their body while they’re talking on their phone.
  • Hands-free technology can be used to talk, but drivers cannot read, write, or sent text messages, emails, or social media content while driving.
  • Drivers are not allowed to watch videos while driving, unless it is a navigational/GPS video.
  • Streaming music can be listened to, so long as there are no videos on the screen. Drivers are not allowed to touch their phones while on the road to activate or program a music streaming app. That must be done prior to driving. Music apps that can be controlled through the vehicle’s radio are allowed.
  • For a first conviction, there will be a fine of $50 and one point assessed against the driver’s license. A second conviction results in a $100 fine and two points. With a third conviction, the driver needs to pay $150 and they will incur three points on their license. The second and third offenses only apply if they take place within two years of the first conviction.

Now while those laws appear to only apply to cell phone use, there is a stipulation under Section 4 that states, “A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.” Because of that statement, law enforcement have the right to pull a driver over and charge them with distracted driving in the event they are eating and driving erratically.

If you’ve been in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you have legal rights and options that can help you seek the compensation you need to recover as quickly as possible. Often times, the negligent driver will try to claim that you did something wrong to cause the accident. We’ll work on your behalf to prove you were doing nothing of the sort and were wrongfully injured. If you’re prepared to get what you need to get your life back in order, reach out to us today.

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