Can a Driver Who Was Eating Be Liable for a Car Crash?

Posted on behalf of James Lynch on December 1, 2022  in Car Accident News. Updated on July 12, 2023

man eating behind the wheel while in trafficDrivers are expected to focus on the road. This means multitasking behind the wheel is not a good idea. When people think of what distracts drivers, the thing that comes to mind is usually texting. Although phones are distracting, there are other actions that can be just as dangerous. One of those is eating behind the wheel.

If a driver was chowing down before he or she crashed into you, you may be eligible to pursue compensation for your damages.

Call our New Jersey auto accident attorneys today to learn more about your legal options if you are injured in a crash. The consultation is free, and there are also no fees to pay while we work on your case.

Eating and Driving is Not Illegal in New Jersey

There is no law in New Jersey that prevents drivers from eating behind the wheel. However, there are laws against distracted driving. Eating or drinking behind the wheel qualifies as distracted driving since it takes a driver’s attention off the road.

Eating while driving is not a primary traffic offense even though it is considered a distraction. This means a police officer who observes a driver eating cannot pull the person over. The officer could, however, issue a citation in this scenario if the driver was also committing a primary offense.

For example, if the officer observed a driver swerving into another lane of traffic or running a red light while taking a bite of food.

Primary traffic offenses include things like:

  • Speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Making an illegal U-turn
  • Disobeying a traffic signal
  • Failure to signal when turning
  • Using a handheld device while driving


What Are the Penalties for Distracted Driving?

Citations for distracted driving in New Jersey can get expensive.

The fine for the first offense ranges from $200 to $400. The second offense can cost between $400 and $600. If there is a third or subsequent offense, drivers can expect a fine of between $600 to $800 and three points added to their driver’s license. A 90-day license suspension is also possible in some cases.

What Are the Hazards of Eating While Driving?

Although it is difficult to determine the extent of injuries or fatalities caused by drivers who were eating, there are statistics on distracted driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), distracted driving kills nine people per day. About 1,000 more are also injured daily.

There are three main types of distractions:

  • Visual – when you take your eyes off the road
  • Manual – when you take your hands off the steering wheel
  • Cognitive – when your mind is not focused on driving

Eating and driving may cause all three distractions. Drivers may take both their eyes and hands off the road to unwrap a sandwich or some other snack. Concentrating on not dropping food also takes the driver’s mind off the road.

These distractions may cause a driver to veer off the road or drift into another lane. If driving on a single-lane highway, this could lead to a dangerous head-on collision.

Not focusing on other vehicles is just as dangerous. Especially in more traffic-heavy areas. Drivers who are more focused on eating may rear-end another vehicle or crash into pedestrians or cyclists.

How Can I Prove a Driver Was Eating Behind the Wheel?

It may be difficult to prove a driver was eating before causing a collision. Working with an experienced attorney could help ease the process.

Our attorneys may use some of the following evidence to prove your claim:

  • Statements from eyewitnesses – Someone who saw the driver eating in his or her car before the crash may be able to testify in your case.
  • The police report – The officer who responded to the crash may have written down his or her observations of food in the car.
  • Photos from the scene – If there was food in the vehicle and you managed to get photos from inside the at-fault driver’s vehicle to prove it.

If your attorney files a lawsuit, he or she may be able to subpoena the bank records of the at-fault driver to show he or she bought food right before the collision.

Can I File a Claim if a Driver Who Was Eating Crashed Into Me?

As the victim of a car accident, you have the right to pursue compensation for your damages. In New Jersey, drivers must file a claim with their own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance first. Once you exhaust the limits of your PIP coverage, you may be able to file a third-party claim with the liable insurance company.

We Are Prepared to Help. Call Our Law Firm Today

Drivers who eat behind the wheel are just as likely to cause a collision as someone who is texting and driving. If you were injured by one of these distracted drivers, call an experienced attorney today.

Our lawyers have decades of experience and have helped injury victims recover millions in compensation.*

There are no upfront fees and no obligation to take legal action.

Call (800) 518-0508 to schedule a free consultation.

* Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.

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