Eating while driving can actually get you a ticket under laws designed to prevent distracted driving. But will they hold up in court? It depends. This is what you should know.
Distracted Driving Laws Are On The Rise
Just about every state now has laws against distracted driving, but the laws vary a great deal from state to state. Some laws have made certain specific behaviors "primary" offenses, meaning that you can be pulled over and ticketed any time a police officer witnesses you committing the action. These include things like
- talking on your cell phone
- texting on your cell phone
- putting on make-up
- writing down a note
- reading a map
While eating and driving isn't a commonly listed primary offense, it is a major source of distracted driving accidents. Eating while driving increases your odds of being in an accident by 80%, and there's even a list of the top 10 most dangerous foods and beverages to consume!
Keep in mind that you can still be pulled over and ticketed even if something isn't a primary offense, if the officer can show that whatever you are doing (such as eating a cheeseburger) is distracting you in such a way that it is affecting your driving.
An Officer Still Needs Probable Cause To Make A Traffic Stop
However, unless you are doing something that's considered a primary offense, a police officer can't stop and ticket you without probable cause.
Probable cause is essentially anything that would lead a reasonable person to believe that you are committing a crime. In this situation, the officer would have to show that he or she had probable cause to believe that something was interfering with your ability to properly drive. This could include the following:
- swerving slightly out of your lane
- speeding up and slowing down for no reason
- driving abnormally slowly
- stopping overly long at stop signs
- failing to move forward in a timely fashion when a stoplight turns green
Any of those activities, coupled with the evidence that your open lunch (or the empty food wrappers) is in plain view when you're pulled over could lead to a ticket for distracted driving due to your consumption of an otherwise legal food or beverage!
How To Fight Probable Cause
If you were ticketed for distracted driving because you were eating a sandwich or drinking coffee, you can challenge the probable cause for the stop.
Your attorney can request discovery of any police reports, videos, or radio transmissions made by the officer when you were pulled over, which might show whether you really were driving erratically. It may be that the officer noticed your lunch in your hand and reacted to that alone even though there was no evidence that your driving was impaired.
If you've been pulled over and ticketed for eating and driving, consider contacting an attorney to defend your case in court. One unwanted traffic violation might not seem like much - unless something happens and you end up in court for another reason. At that point, your previous traffic violations can be used against you to increase any new penalties or fines. For more information, contact a business such as Bare Law Firm.