The new Peugeot 3008 has all the big cupholders and cabin cubby spaces that you could ever need. Because the cabin is so comfortable and well appointed, people can quickly feel at home, and everyone loves to eat. Most drivers know that drugs, alcohol, and hand held mobile phone use is banned while driving, but what about eating food?
The Shorter Answer
The very brief answer is that it is legal to eat while you’re driving a car. In fact, there is no specific law against other questionable driving activities, such as: applying makeup, drinking a non-alcoholic drink or even shaving on the way to work. But, before you reach for that sandwich, it’s important to know that there is a longer answer to the question.
The Longer Answer
Although it is perfectly legal to eat at the same time as you’re driving a car, the act of eating itself must not impair your ability to control the car. So, if you’re holding a chocolate bar in your hand as you drive, you’re probably not going to be much of a danger to yourself or other road users. However, if you’re tucking into a bowl of sweet and sour pork with noodles using chopsticks you’re could be pulled over.
As soon as a police officer believes that you’re not in full control of your car, they will pull you over. It’s likely that you will be charged with driving while distracted although the exact wording for this offence can vary depending on the state or territory where you’re stopped. The penalties can also vary a great deal, so it’s not worth the risk, and it’s a better idea to pull over and get something to eat.
Here in Western Australia, a recent case highlighted this particular issue perfectly. A woman driving to work was photographed while she ate a bowl of breakfast cereal! This is obviously unsafe, but the act of eating the cereal was not what caused her to be penalised, it was the lack of control over her car that got her into trouble. This driver had to pay a fine of $300 and a loss of three demerit points because she had lax control over her car.
It seems clear that there is very little tolerance for eating habits that affect the driver’s attention and ability to control their car. The simple answer is to ignore those hunger pains and pull over when you feel the need to eat. If you cannot wait, maybe a simple muesli or chocolate bar will be enough to keep you satiated until you get home. If you don’t commit any offences, you cannot get a penalty, and your driving licence will be spotless. Next time you need to eat whilst driving give it a little thought, and you will avoid trouble with the police.