Is it Illegal To Eat While Driving in Alabama?

Safely operating a motor vehicle in Alabama takes a driver’s full attention. Even a minor distraction could be enough to delay the driver’s reactions to roadway hazards, resulting in a collision. Eating and driving is one of the many forms of driver distraction that contribute to car accidents each year. Distracted driving took almost 3,200 lives in 2017, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

You may know eating or drinking and driving is dangerous. Many drivers, however, do not realize it could also be against Alabama’s distracted driving laws. A driver in Alabama could receive a traffic citation for any action behind the wheel that distracts him or her enough to interfere with the driving ability. If eating fast food causes you to miss a red light, speed, swerve or make an unsafe lane change, for example, you could receive a ticket for eating while driving.

Alabama’s Distracted Driving Laws

As is the case in most states, Alabama’s distracted driving laws pertain specifically to cellphone use behind the wheel. It is against the law to operate a handheld electronic wireless telecommunication device while driving. Drivers may only use cellphones behind the wheel if they do so using hands-free technologies, such as Bluetooth. The exception is if the driver is touching the phone to activate or deactivate certain features. It is also an exception to use a phone to contact emergency service providers.

Alabama bans texting and talking on handheld phones while driving. It does not, however, have a policy specifically against other forms of distracted driving. There is no eating while driving law in Alabama. That being said, it may still be possible to get a ticket for this action if it interferes with your driving ability or causes an accident. Basic driver education courses in Alabama teach drivers to always keep their eyes on the road and both hands in the correct positions on the steering wheel. Breaching these basic driver duties is an act of negligence that could lead to legal trouble.

Consequences for Eating and Driving in Alabama

Police officers in Alabama and neighboring states may be cracking down on distracted driving. In 2015, the Atlanta police issued an Alabama resident a ticket for the specific infraction of eating while driving. The driver was eating a cheeseburger from McDonald’s when an officer pulled him over and said he’d been watching the man eat for two miles. The officer cited him for eating and driving, despite Georgia not having any specific law banning this activity.

As is the case in Alabama, Georgia outlaws distracted driving without specifics – giving the police authority to use their best judgment in handing out tickets for this infraction. As a driver in Alabama, you could receive a traffic infraction and a fine for eating and driving if it takes your eyes off the road or hands off the wheel.

A police officer could view eating as a distracted driving activity that is dangerous enough to break the traffic laws in Alabama. You could even receive a ticket for reckless driving if eating behind the wheel caused you to break a traffic rule, such as running a red light. This infraction could lead to points on your driver’s license, with additional repercussions such as having to take a driver safety course or paying more for your car insurance.

If you cause a car accident while eating and driving, you could face criminal and civil charges. The city may prosecute you for reckless driving or even homicide – crimes that can lead to expensive fines and/or time in jail. The victim of the collision could file a civil claim against you in pursuit of financial restitution. You or your insurance company may have to pay the victim compensation for his or her medical expenses, vehicle repairs, pain and suffering, and other damages. Protect yourself and others by waiting until you get to your destination to eat.