Man Cited for Eating While Driving: Is That Really Illegal?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on January 20, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An apparently hungry driver was issued a citation for "eating while driving" after an officer saw him eating a cheeseburger while behind the wheel.

Madison Turner says he purchased a cheeseburger at a McDonald's in Marietta, Georgia, but was pulled over while eating it a few minutes later, reports Atlanta's WSB-TV. The officer reportedly told Turner that he had been observing him eating the cheeseburger for 2 miles. "He said specifically three times, you can't just go down the road eating a hamburger," Turner told WSB.

Is it really illegal to eat while driving?

Distracted Driving Alleged

Turner's ticket specifies in the comments section that he was cited after being observed eating while driving, but he was actually cited under Georgia's distracted driving law. Distracted driving laws vary by state, but generally, when a driver is performing an activity that could potentially distract him or her from the task of operating a vehicle, he or she may run the risk of being cited for distracted driving.

Georgia's distracted driving law states, "A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle." But what would generally be considered an "action which shall distract" a driver?

Distracted Driving May Include Eating, Having Pets in Lap

Rather than punish specific types of actions behind the wheel, distracted driving laws are generally intended to prohibit the effect these actions have on a driver's ability to drive safely. Thus, a wide range of actions can potentially cause a driver to run afoul of distracted driving ordinances, including eating, applying make-up, having pets in your lap, or potentially anything else that may take a driver's attention off the road.

In Turner's case, he doesn't dispute that he was eating the burger, but contends that he shouldn't be punished for doing so. He will have a chance to dispute the citation in court February 3.

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