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Eating and Driving - Is It Legal?
20 September 2022

Eating and Driving - Is It Legal?

Particularly when you are on a long drive, it can be tempting to reach for the snacks while you are behind the wheel, but what are the rules about eating and driving? Is it legal?

Is it illegal to eat and drive?

Technically, no it isn’t, but while there isn’t a ‘no eating while driving’ law, you can still be stopped if you are clocked as a careless driver, and that can come with a heavy fine. Research has shown that eating behind the wheel drastically reduces reaction times, and lapses in concentration while driving could have serious consequences. The Highway Code specifically states that ‘safe driving and riding needs concentration’, and if you become distracted with food and lose control of your vehicle, police would be able to prosecute you for careless driving. This may result in a fine of £100 in addition to three penalty points on your licence, although more severe cases have resulted in a £5,000 fine, nine penalty points and a driving ban. 

So, next time you are going on a long journey, you may want to question whether it is worth having food available next to you and whether you will be able to maintain full concentration on the road with your chosen snacks. It may be better to plan your route ahead of time to include a lunch break, or even just find somewhere to pull up safely before chowing down.  


What about drinking?

As with eating, drinking soft drinks while driving is not illegal but it could cause you to become distracted and this is when it becomes risky. Losing control of the car due to lack of concentration while drinking will potentially lead to the same charges for careless driving as eating behind the wheel.

Despite this, experts advise that you do keep a drink in your car because in some circumstances, becoming dehydrated can be just as dangerous. We have seen some seriously high temperatures in the UK this summer, and being confined in a metal vehicle for an extended period can make you very hot and thirsty indeed. Dehydration can cause drowsiness and a lack of focus, reducing reaction times.

To ensure that you stay safe and hydrated, you can make sensible choices when it comes to drinking while driving. Choose a bottle with a sports cap or straw so that you won’t need to take your eyes away from the road to unscrew a bottle cap and enlist the help of passengers. Think about what is going on around you before you go to take a drink and consider whether there is a more convenient opportunity to do so, for example, when you have come to a stop at traffic lights or if there is a service station nearby.


Of course drinking alcohol while driving is illegal and carries severe penalties.

To conclude, eating and drinking (non-alcoholic beverages) while driving is not against the law, but it can take your concentration away from the road which could lead to accidents, so plan ahead, remain vigilant and avoid taking risks.