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Sipping coffee while driving: likely not a crime but is it safe?

Drive-through or pass-through windows are everywhere in Phoenix. They are on the side of nearly all fast-food restaurants, ice cream parlors and coffee shops. Many sit-down restaurants even have “to-go” services for our fast-paced society. You could even argue that eating while driving is a generally accepted practice.

Is it a crime? The answer to the first question is: maybe. Distracted driving or careless driving laws are often written using broad language that could encompass eating while driving. It would be hard to predict whether an officer would pull you over and give you a ticket for eating. Does it rise to the level of negligence?

People cause car accidents all the time by behaving in a way that may not be a crime but still puts others at risk. Eating is one of those risky behaviors. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), eating increases your chances of being involved in a crash by 80 percent.

Here are the top 5 most dangerous foods, according to the NHTSA:

  1. Coffee: That shot of caffeine may help keep you awake behind the wheel, but it is the most common cause of eating-related crashes. Spilling, splashing and even trying to fit the cup in the holder can lead to accidents.
  2. Hot soups: This one is another liquid danger. With the portable soup options, it has become a favorite for busy mornings or afternoons.
  3. Tacos: These fast-food restaurants are on the forefront of campaigns advertising for late-night cravings, but those cravings involve messy foods that are not very conducive to driving with two hands.
  4. Chili: If you are wondering how chili could land at number four, this one includes anything containing chili. The popular Sonic chili dog is one example.
  5. Hamburgers: It might surprise readers to learn that hamburgers are less risky than a taco, but there it is at number five on the list. It is still quite the distracting food.

The standard of proof in civil lawsuits for personal injury damages is the reasonable person. Eating while driving could certainly be considered negligence depending on the circumstances of the case.

Source: Drive-Safely.net, “Eating While Driving & The Top 10 Most Dangerous Foods,” Mike Rogers, Accessed March, 24, 2015

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