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Is it Illegal to Eat and Drive? (2019 Update)

Is it Illegal to Eat and Drive? (2019 Update)

Eating a quick snack or consuming an on-the-go meal whilst driving isn't technically illegal - but here's why you still shouldn't do it.

19th February 2019

People lead busy lives, and it’s no surprise that one of the few times people can get down time is when they are driving in their car. It makes sense then, that people may use this time to eat. Whether it be a quick dinner or a mere snack, eating whilst driving raises issues of legality.

This is especially relevant when one considers recent crackdowns on laws surrounding driving. The penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol have become more severe, and drivers who are caught using their phones can lose their license on the spot. If eating whilst driving also has the potential to be distracting, does this mean that it’s technically illegal? In this article, we’ll find out.

The uncertain scope in Australia

Running late? Need to get to that 9am meeting? It is in situations like these that we grab food to go. This is something many of us are guilty of doing. To save time we eat our food on the go whilst driving. It’s convenient, quick and we never think twice about it.

Whilst you might make it to that important meeting sustained from the egg and bacon roll you scoffed down on your car journey, have you ever considered whether or not it is actually legal to eat whilst driving?

It’s not an issue of illegality (yet)

It’s easy to say that drivers who are driving whilst eating (steering with one hand) have slower reaction times to fast changing traffic conditions. When we put this into perspective it is actually quite alarming. Similar to driving with a phone in one hand, being distracted while driving can have serious consequences not only for us, but for others on the road.

Concerns, aside it is not illegal in Australia to eat whilst driving. Under the Australian Road Rules 2008, Rule 297, a driver must not drive if they do not have complete control of the vehicle. Conduct such as eating whilst driving can therefore be a factor that can be taken into consideration when looking at issues of control. However, it would be difficult to enforce the secondary conduct of drivers instead of primary driving conduct. (e.g. not indicating correctly)

Distracted Driver Laws in review

We’ve established that’s it’s not illegal to eat whilst driving. However, as the issue of eating whilst driving becomes a bigger issue, road and transport authorities may consider creating specific laws to combat this. To date however, they have only gone as far as to create targeted campaigns.

That being said, eating while driving can mean that you’re not in proper control of your vehicle, or not driving with proper care. Police can issue fines and demerit points for this, so whilst you’re not breaking any laws explicitly, you can still get into trouble.

Don’t know where to start? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest legal marketplace.

Zachary Swan

Zac is a consultant at Lawpath, Australia’s largest and fastest growing online legal platform. Since joining Lawpath, Zac has assisted 1000s of startups and small business’s with their legal needs.