Are Drivers Who Eat and Drink While Driving Negligent?

by Staff | January 24th, 2022

California law expressly prohibits the use of cell phones while driving, but no law prevents eating or drinking while behind the wheel. Although it’s not illegal, consuming food and beverages and causing an accident can constitute negligence.

Our California car accident lawyers can help you recover medical expenses and other losses after a vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver.

The Dangers of Eating While Driving

Every driver owes a duty of care to others on the road, including passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians. It is the responsibility of all drivers to follow the law and maintain control of their speed and cars. The California Department of Motor Vehicles also recognizes three types of distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive. Distracted driving occurs when someone eats while driving in the following situations.

  • Manual distraction: One or both hands are absent from the steering wheel while eating and drinking. It is very dangerous for drivers to eat while driving, even if just for a moment, whether they are opening a snack or adding a straw to a soft drink.
  • Visual distraction: You take your eyes off the road to focus on your food. The traffic speed may change, or a car may sneak into your blind spot while you’re glancing away to pick up food or a drink.
  • Cognitive distraction: This is when eating takes precedence over driving in terms of your mental focus. If you aren’t aware of the surrounding traffic as you eat and drink, your reaction times will slow, and you might have an accident.

How Common Are Car Accidents Because of Eating While Driving?

CDC statistics indicate that distracted driving kills 8 people in the United States every day. The number of accidents caused by distracted drivers reached about 400,000 in 2018. The following statistics illustrate the dangers of driving while eating and drinking, which can cause an accident:

  • A 2021 survey from The Zebra found that 52.5% of respondents admitted to eating while driving.
  • In the same survey, they found the risk of a crash increased eight times when reaching for an object and three times when eating or drinking.
  • If drivers are distracted by something else, they might suffer from the “hangover effect.” This phenomenon is a mental distraction that endures for up to 27 seconds after the original distracting event, even at a red light or stop sign.
  • The number of people killed by distracted drivers in car accidents nationally between 2012 and 2019 was approximately 26,000.

You Can Prevent Eating and Driving Accidents

The risks of driving while eating are incredibly high, putting drivers, passengers, and pedestrians at risk. Avoid eating while driving by practicing the following tips:

●     Stop at a rest stop or restaurant

Try to eat a meal before leaving your house. If you need to eat food while en route, stop at a rest stop or a local restaurant before returning to your vehicle. By eating off the road, you can focus on driving.

●     Don’t eat inside your car

Avoid the temptation to eat in your car and instead dine outside in a parking lot or inside a restaurant. Getting off the road for a quick snack and eating outside of your car may save a life, including your own.

●     Ask someone else to drive

A long journey can make it difficult to stop for food and rest. You may find that hunger strikes as you drive along the road with no rest stops in sight. You can ask another passenger to drive for you temporarily. Use the downtime to eat and rest.

●     Drink beverages in small containers

Invest in a slim container with a lid that is easy to open with one hand. Compact and lightweight containers are easier to handle while keeping your eyes on the road.

A California Car Accident Lawyer Can Help Your Case

Even when you’re cautious, other drivers’ distractions, such as eating, drinking, or texting while driving, can lead to an accident. A distracted driving accident lawsuit can be complicated, and proving the driver’s negligence often requires a resourceful attorney.

If you were injured in an accident caused by someone you believe was eating and drinking while driving, Berg Injury Lawyers can help you fight for the compensation you deserve. We are happy to set up a no-obligation, complimentary consultation to learn more about your case.