Do Distracted Driving Laws Include “Eating and Driving?”
A few years ago, a stand-up comedian in California took to the road with iPhone shaped cookies, hoping to pull a prank on law enforcement there. But instead, he ended up being the punch line. His actions began several worthwhile conversations on social media and drew comments on news sites about just how distracting food can be and whether eating and driving should be part of distracted driving laws across the country.
Distracted driving kills thousands of people every year. These distractions can come from a variety of places, but are usually attributed to phone use—texting, talking, and emailing. Still, some states (like California) have added eating to their distracted driving laws, and though the law only bans eating a meal and not a snack, it brings to light some interesting talking points.
Back in 2013, comedian Randy Liedtke baked his iPhone shaped cookies in an attempt to trick law enforcement. He drove around the Los Angeles area, talking on his cookie, while passing police cars hoping to get pulled over. He got his wish and tweeted the entire event. His Tweets, according to NBC Los Angeles read:
“OH MAN I’M GETTING PULLED OVER STAY TUNED!”
“Took a bite out of the cookie. He was so confused and angry. Told me to hold tight, he is back in his car now.”
“Making me go with him. Letting me text gf but I’m tweeting this.”
It turned out Liedtke had a warrant for outstanding parking tickets. He was taken to the police station and processed. His social media accounts were silent for 10 hours before he posted this:
“Wasn’t worth it. I’m an idiot… No more iPhone Cookies.”
There’s no doubt that many states have updated their distracted driving laws, since then. In the state of Georgia, it is against the law to text and drive. All cell phone use is banned for bus drivers and novice drivers, but the extent of the distracted driving laws ends there, so far. There is no specific ban on eating, doing your make-up, or reading a map while behind the wheel—all activities that could be just as dangerous as sending a text message.
In California, it’s against the law to eat a meal while on the road. But you can drink something or have a snack. The specifics of the law are interesting in that not everyone eats the same-size meal or the same-size snack. My small meal (a wrap sandwich for instance) may be far less distracting than your snack (a large ice cream sundae). But you would be okay while I may face legal penalties.
The intent of all distracted driving laws is to save lives and keep the roads safer. The question is: do Georgia laws go far enough?
One study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that a whopping 80% of all car accidents and 65% of near-misses are caused by people eating behind the wheel. This is staggering and could mean eating is more dangerous than texting.
While you may use one hand to dial and your eyes may momentarily leave the road (long enough to cause an accident), making a call behind the wheel seems far less distracting than eating a burger—which requires the continued use of your hand(s) and eyes. Likewise, putting your make-up on in your rear-view mirror is a distraction that puts everyone at risk.
We may reach a point where hand-held phones are banned while driving. But if we hope to reduce distracted driving accidents significantly, we have to end all distractions behind the wheel, and this includes common activities like eating.