Is It Illegal to Eat and Drive?
For those on the go, grabbing a snack or a drink while driving seems like a practical way to keep up with life’s fast pace. But many people don’t realize that this quick meal could come with a hefty price. Receiving a distracted driving ticket because of eating can be evidence of negligence, especially if the driver who was eating caused the crash. This implication can profoundly influence a personal injury claim, possibly shifting the blame or altering compensation amounts.
At De Castroverde Personal Injury & Accident, our Las Vegas car accident lawyers understand the potentially deadly toll of distracted driving all too well. We have seen countless lives ruined by distracted drivers, and driving distractions come in all shapes and sizes. Below, you’ll find essential information on Nevada’s distracted driving laws and how they apply to personal injury cases.
What Is Distracted Driving?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is “any activity that diverts attention from driving.” That’s a broad definition, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified three main types of driver distractions:
Visual distractions divert a driver’s eyes away from the road. Drivers must keep their vision constantly trained on their surroundings to recognize and react promptly to potential hazards. Even a split-second glance away from the road can have serious consequences. For instance, at 55 mph, looking away for just five seconds means traveling the length of a football field essentially blindfolded.
Manual distractions cause a driver to take one or both hands off the wheel, reducing their ability to steer or respond quickly to changes in road conditions. These significant distractions compromise a driver’s physical control over the vehicle.
It’s important to remember that even though a driver might feel in control while performing these actions, the risk escalates with the reduced ability to handle sudden changes on the road.
Cognitive distractions divert a driver’s mental focus from the task of driving. Even if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel, the risk of an accident increases if the mind is elsewhere. When cognitive distractions come into play, the driver’s ability to process information, make decisions, and react to situations promptly can be severely compromised.
Distracted Driving Accident Statistics
Distracted driving crashes continue impacting thousands of people in Nevada and the United States. The NHTSA reports more than 3,500 people nationwide died in distracted accidents in one recent year. Meanwhile, the CDC reports that one in five people who died in distracted driving accidents nationwide in one recent year were not drivers or passengers. Instead, they were pedestrians, bicycle riders, or other people not inside a car.
The situation is just as grim in Nevada. A report from the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety indicates that about three percent of crashes statewide in one recent year involved a distracted driver. That same report states that nine people died in distracted driving accidents during the most recent year for which data is available. It’s also worth noting that distracted driving accidents are not confined to crowded cities like Las Vegas, as about 49 percent of distracted driving crashes occurred in rural areas in one recent year.
Examples of Distracted Driving Behaviors
Distracted driving covers a broad range of activities, but some of the most common examples include:
- Texting or reading messages
- Talking on a cellphone
- Eating and drinking
- Adjusting the radio, CD player, or other audio devices
- Using a GPS or map
- Watching videos or browsing the internet
- Taking photos or selfies
- Interacting with passengers
- Applying makeup or grooming
- Adjusting vehicle controls, like air conditioning or seat positions
- Smoking or using e-cigarettes
- Reaching for objects in the backseat or on the floor
- Daydreaming or becoming lost in thought
- Handling pets in the vehicle
- Looking at external distractions, such as billboards or roadside incidents
Nevada Distracted Driving Laws
Multiple local and state laws prohibit distracted driving, including eating while driving. The Clark County Code, which applies to Las Vegas, says it is illegal to drive a car “without giving full time and attention” to driving. In some circumstances, eating while driving might qualify as an offense under this law. A violation of this law is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
In addition to Clark County’s local laws, two sections of the Nevada Revised Statutes address distracted driving. The first law says driving a car while sending, reading, or writing a text message is illegal. This law also makes it illegal to talk on the phone while driving unless the driver uses a hands-free system. Violating this law is a civil offense punishable by a $50 fine, though the penalties increase for subsequent offenses.
The second law addressing distracted driving is Nevada’s reckless driving statute. This law makes it a crime to drive “in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.” In some circumstances, eating while driving might be grounds for a reckless driving charge, though it depends on the case. Reckless driving is usually a misdemeanor in Nevada, and potential penalties include a fine of up to $2,000 and a maximum of 364 days in jail.
Does Eating and Driving Qualify as Distracted Driving?
Eating while driving generally qualifies as distracted driving. This activity forces drivers to take at least one hand off the wheel, their eyes off the road, and their minds away from what’s happening around them. It puts other drivers in danger and could be grounds for criminal charges.
In a personal injury case, eating and driving could also be evidence of negligence. Depending on the circumstances, that evidence might be enough to determine who caused a crash and, therefore, should pay for any injuries and losses they caused. Therefore, we recommend everyone avoid eating while driving for their own sake and the safety of others.
If a distracted driver hits you while eating and driving, the De Castroverde Law Group can assist you in pursuing fair compensation for your injuries and other losses. Call (702) 803-3048 or complete our online contact form for a free case evaluation.