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Reckless Driving Law’s:
Eating While Driving in California

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Schmidt & Clark, LLP is not currently accepting these types of cases and has posted this content for information purposes only. We encourage you to seek a qualified attorney, if you feel you might have a case.

While Driving, California has several distracted driving laws and other laws about unsafe driving conduct.

With years of experience as a legal attorney in California, I'll provide insights into the state's driving laws.

This article will dive into these laws, focusing on the nuances and potential consequences for drivers who engage in distractions like eating while driving.

Quick Summary

  • Eating behind the wheel is not explicitly illegal in California, but it can be considered a form of distracted driving and may lead to citations.
  • Distracted driving refers to any action that draws the driver's attention away from safely operating their vehicle.
  • Eating while behind the wheel should be avoided as it can lead to traffic stops, fines, increased insurance premiums, and potential legal liabilities if an accident occurs.

Is It Illegal To Eat While Driving In California?

A person holding food and drinks while drivingYes, it is illegal to eat while driving in California. Although no specific law explicitly prohibits eating while driving in California, it can be considered a form of distracted driving.

If a police officer observes that your eating habits affect your ability to drive safely, you may be issued a citation.

According to the California Highway Patrol, eating behind the wheel is a manual distraction that can lead to car accidents [1].

What Is Distracted Driving?

A distracted driver due to eating and having a phone call

Distracted driving is any activity that diverts a driver's attention away from the primary task of driving.

A distracted driver can be engaged in various distractions, such as:

  • Visual distractions, such as looking at a phone or GPS
  • Manual distractions, such as eating or adjusting the radio
  • Cognitive distractions, such as daydreaming or talking on the phone

These distractions can lead to dangerous situations and even accidents.

The California Highway Patrol reports that eating behind the wheel is a manual distraction, as it often requires drivers to remove at least one hand from the steering wheel and focus on the food rather than the road [2].

Electronic Wireless Communications Device

A man using a cellphone while drivingCalifornia law prohibits using electronic wireless communications devices like cell phones, tablets, or laptops while driving.

This law is designed to prevent distracted driving accidents caused by drivers who are texting, browsing the internet, or engaging in other activities on their devices.

There are exceptions to this rule, such as using a hands-free device for talking on the phone or utilizing a built-in navigation system.

Cell Phone Laws

California has strict cell phone laws to minimize the risk of distracted driving accidents.

The laws are as follows:

  • All drivers are prohibited from using handheld phones to make calls while driving.
  • Drivers over 18 years old are allowed to use hands-free devices.

Violating California's cell phone laws can result in fines, increased insurance premiums, and even traffic school requirements [3].

Related Article: Using Headphones While Driving

Eating and Other Driver Distractions

A woman eating in her car while driving

Eating while driving is considered a manual distraction because it often requires drivers to take their hands off the wheel to handle the food. However, it is not the only type of driver distraction.

"A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving."
- California Phone Law

California's Reckless Driving Law

Reckless driving in California is defined as driving with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others.

This means intentionally creating a risk to other drivers, pedestrians, or property or consciously disregarding the potential consequences of one's actions.

Under California Vehicle Code 23103, a reckless driving conviction can lead to a jail sentence of up to 90 days and a fine of up to $1,000 [4].

Related Article: Teen Driving Safety Tips

How Does Negligence Apply to Eating While Driving in California?

A woman eating a burger while drivingIn California, negligence applies to eating while driving in California by considering the potential distractions and risks it poses.

Eating while driving can divert a driver's attention from the road, leading to a higher chance of accidents.

If a driver is found to be negligent, they may be held liable for any damages or injuries resulting from the accident.

Eating while driving can be considered negligent behavior, especially if it puts the driver in a position where they won't be driving safely.

To prove negligence in a car accident case, the plaintiff must show that the defendant's actions directly caused the accident and that a reasonable driver in similar circumstances would have been aware of the risks.

Read Also: 7 Things to Do if You Witness a Car Accident

Penalties for Eating While Driving

Eating while driving can lead to a traffic stop, fines, and potential evidence of negligence in a traffic accident.

In California, if a police officer observes you eating behind the wheel and believes it is impairing your ability to drive safely, they may issue a citation for distracted driving.

This can result in fines and potential points on your driver's license, leading to increased insurance premiums and even suspension of driving privileges.

Related Article: DMV Suspended License Reinstatement

Proving Negligence in Distracted Driving Cases

A court judge holding a gavelTo prove negligence in a distracted driving case involving eating while driving, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant's behavior was the direct cause of the accident.

This requires establishing that the defendant was eating while driving, which impaired their ability to operate the vehicle safely.

Additionally, the plaintiff must show that a reasonable driver in similar circumstances would have been aware of the risks associated with eating while driving and would have taken steps to avoid such distractions.

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What Is Illegal To Do While Driving In California?

While driving in California, it is illegal to text or drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While eating while driving is not explicitly prohibited, it can be considered a distraction if it affects your driving ability.

Can You Drink Water While Driving In California?

Yes, you can drink water while driving in California. However, just like eating, it may be considered a distraction if it interferes with your ability to drive safely.

Is It Illegal To Talk And Drive In California?

Yes, it is illegal to talk and drive in California, especially if you are talking on a handheld cell phone. However, drivers over 18 can use hands-free devices such as Bluetooth headsets or speakerphones.

Get A Free Consultation From Our Car Accident Lawyers Today

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident due to distracted driving, don't hesitate to contact our experienced car accident lawyers at Schmidt & Clark, LLP for a free consultation.

Our legal team will review your case, answer your questions, and guide you to the best action.

We have a team of experienced lawyers who are dedicated to helping our clients get the compensation they deserve.

We will work tirelessly to get you the maximum settlement possible, and we will never charge you a fee unless we win your case.