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Is it illegal to eat and drive?

There are no laws preventing eating and driving in so many words.

No, it's not illegal to eat and drive, but you could still get in trouble if eating while driving causes you to not have full control over your vehicle. 

For quite a few years I commuted an hour-and-a-half from the NSW Central Coast to Sydney and, in that time, I saw people doing all kinds of reckless, stupid acts on the freeway while driving at 110km/h (or faster). Along with people reading newspapers, applying makeup, getting dressed, or building Lego, the worst I saw was someone eating a bowl of cereal at 110km/h.

Unfortunately, that is not strictly illegal in Australia as there are no laws preventing eating and driving in so many words. But I would hope that, if a member of the Highway Patrol spotted old mate chomping on his Coco-Pops, they would have pulled him over and fined him for not being in full control of his vehicle, as  happened to someone I know who had crashed while trying to eat a hamburger and drive in the pouring rain.

Unfortunately the laws of common sense are all too often ignored in the face of satisfying our hunger.

Given the road rules say you need to drive with two hands on the wheel at all times, that doesn’t leave most normal people with enough spare fingers to hold a tasty treat mid-drive.

The police could probably find several ways to fine you if you were trying to eat while you should be driving, but the most likely charge against you would be for not having full and proper control of your vehicle, or potentially negligent driving. 

That said, you would have to be doing something particularly silly to draw their attention to you, given the number of people who manage to eat a snack while piloting their car without being stopped.

Interestingly, Queensland’s Griffith Health Institute released a research paper in 2015 that included finding that eating while driving could be as dangerous as texting while driving. Having performed tests involving texting and eating while driving a car, Dr Chris Irwin’s research found similar levels of detriment to driving performance.

If you’re worried about your insurance policy covering you while you hose Doritos and drive, double-check in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for your policy from your insurer. The PDS will outline exclusions and explain how your actions while driving could affect a claim being paid. 

For instance, if your eating of a whole pig on a spit while driving was the leading cause of you having the crash that caused your claim, then you might well be found negligent. However, insurance policies can vary greatly from provider to provider, so check the PDS or call them directly to clarify.

We couldn’t find any specific laws in Australia, and this legal blog confirms it is not illegal, yet.

This article is not intended as legal advice. You should check with your local road authority to verify the information written here is suitable to your situation before driving in this manner.