Texting and driving, phone calls while driving, and even the use of GPS are becoming increasingly legally problematic, but what about eating while driving? Most drivers have done it, and the business model of most drive-through fast food businesses depends on it. Though it could fall under laws against distracted driving, charging a driver for eating — unless the activity has caused an accident or otherwise proven dangerous — is far outside the norm. Still, it’s the charge one driver in Georgia is facing.
Madison Turner is from Alabama, but he was driving through Marietta, Georgia, when he was pulled over and charged with distracted driving. According to WSPA 7, the officer wrote in the comment section of the ticket, “Eating while driving.” Turner also says that the officer repeatedly told him, “You just can’t drive down the road eating a hamburger.”
The law firm of Milllar and Mixon, which pursues cases in which distracted driving is a factor, explains that texting while driving, for instance, is covered under what is called a ‘primary enforcement law’ — a law that allows an officer to ticket a driver for that offense alone, without any additional offense. A driver partaking in a legal activity, though, such as listening to the radio, using a GPS, or, perhaps, eating, may also see charges for distracted driving if those activities lead to an accident.
If Turner had caused an accident, or been driving erratically, while eating, an additional charge for distracted driving wouldn’t have come as a surprise. Being pulled over and charged for that alone, however, is unprecedented, according to traffic attorney William Head. Head isn’t representing Turner, but did speak to WSPA about the charge.
“I’ve only seen something like this charge when there’s an accident. There was no accident here so the fact that this man was charged with eating and driving is a first for me.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation says that distracted driving is responsible for about 400,000 injuries and over 3,000 deaths per year, citing cell phone use, particularly texting, as the worst offender. A full ban on texting while driving has been recommended for years now.
“[B]ecause text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.”
However, the organization lists numerous types of distractions, including eating, talking to other passengers, and adjusting the radio, and dangerous activities while driving. The question remains, though, whether eating while driving can stand up in court as a primary charge. Madison Turner will learn the answer to that on February 3rd.
[photo credit: ** RCB ** ]