While most of us have become accustomed to drive through take away which allows us to purchase food products without leaving our cars and self-driving cars are becoming increasingly popular as the self-drive features require little or no human input, the opportunity to eat and drink while driving is available at our fingertips. But is it legal? Are we bound to any specific road rule? Is there any law that specifically prohibits eating and drinking whilst driving? The short answer is No.
Right now, in NSW, there is no specific law that permits a road user from eating or drinking behind the wheel of a car while driving. However, the Road User Handbook from Transport for NSW states that drivers need to drive with both hands on the steering wheel and in full control of the vehicle, which is clearly the opposite of what you would do if you were eating while driving. The Road User Handbook, however, is not the law.
Also, pursuant to section 297(1) of the Road Rules 2014, a driver is to have proper control of a vehicle. If you have been pulled over by a police officer for this offence, it is within their powers to issue you an infringement of $464 and 3 demerit points. This can also increase if the offence has been committed in a school zone. In some circumstances, police may use their discretion to issue you a Court Attendance Notice (‘CAN’) where the offence will be listed at court for a Magistrate to decide on the penalty. The maximum penalty for this offence is 20 penalty units (or $2200), a fine usually accompanies with a conviction. A conviction that is recorded for any offence can be detrimental to your employment, future travel plans and if any future offences that are heard in court.
If in the circumstances the police have found that the cause of you eating and drinking while driving is negligent, you will be issued with an offence of Negligent driving under section 117 of the Road Transport Act 2013. This offence will be heard at court where one of the available penalties is that you are disqualified from driving for a certain period and any other penalty where the court may impose.
Although it isn’t illegal to eat and drink while you are driving, it is strongly advised that all NSW road users should completely avoid it. If eating while driving interferes with your control of the vehicle, you may be committing an offence. This means the police can issue you with an infringement notice or CAN and the penalties and consequences can be quite severe.
Our Traffic Law lawyers are experienced with these types of matters. We carefully analyse your case and advise you on what penalties are expected if pleading guilty.
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