Is It Illegal To Eat While Driving? (Fines For Eating While Driving NSW)

A man charged with distracted driving in the US has been found not guilty after successfully arguing that he was holding a hash brown, not a mobile phone.

Jason Stiber was pulled over in Westport, Connecticut when a police officer suspected that he was talking on a mobile phone while behind the wheel.

He was then issued with a $US300 fine.

However, Stiber has always maintained that the object in his hand was a hash brown, not a mobile phone.

The case

Stiber originally represented himself in court last year and lost his case.

However, he was determined to appeal the case as a matter of principle.

A Westport police officer testified that he had “clearly” seen Stiber holding an object the size of a mobile phone up to his face while moving his lips.

Stiber’s lawyer countered this claim by asserting that Stiber’s behaviour was “consistent with chewing”.

Stiber’s legal team was also able to produce evidence that the police officer who had pulled Stiber over had done so during the 15th hour of a 16-hour double shift.

The appeal was also aided by phone records which proved that Stiber was not using his phone at the time the incident was alleged to have occurred.

The judge decided that the prosecution had not met the required standard of proof.

Can I eat while driving in NSW?

It is common knowledge that illegally using a mobile phone while driving is a criminal offence; which you can read more about here.

There is no specific road rule prohibiting drivers from eating while behind the wheel in NSW.

But, in circumstances where it can be proved that eating behind the wheel has distracted the driver, the driver may be liable under Rule 297 of the Road Rules 2014.

Rule 297 states that a driver must not drive a vehicle unless the driver has proper control of the vehicle.

Drivers found in contravention of this rule commonly face a $448 fine.

In 2018 a Perth woman incurred 3 demerit points and a $300 fine for “driving without due care and attention” (the WA version of the offence) while eating a bowl of cereal while driving.

In extreme circumstances, drivers may be charged with negligent, furious or reckless driving.

Negligent driving

Negligent driving is an offence under section 117 of the Road Transport Act.

The offence is broken up into three different levels of severity, which are as follows:

  • Negligent driving not occasioning death or grievous bodily harm
  • Negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm
  • Negligent driving occasioning death

The maximum penalties range from a fine and licence disqualification to a term of imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offence.

Key takeaways

While there’s no law in NSW that explicitly prohibits a driver from consuming their beloved Maccas hash brown while driving, it seems apparent that dining in is the best course of action.

Our lawyers are highly experienced in defending traffic matters. If you need advice or representation for a traffic matter, contact Hamilton Janke Lawyers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 4038 1666.

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