Distraction while driving is one of the most common causes of a car accident. However, no law makes it illegal to eat and drive.


Operating a car while distracted is a common cause of accidents and in particular, rear-end crashes. As an example, a driver going 60 mph travels about 88 feet a second. A driver who is distracted for just two seconds will have driven almost 200 feet, which is over half a football field. California has enacted laws to help eliminate distracted driving. As an example, it is illegal to drive and talk on a cellular phone.


Although it is not illegal to eat or drink while driving, doing so is often related to Vehicle Code violations.

As examples, California law states that a driver cannot follow another motor vehicle more closely than is reasonable. Often that will happen when a driver is distracted. Also, the law says that no person shall drive at a speed higher than is safe for traffic conditions. Drivers who are distracted frequently forget the speed limit and operate a vehicle at an unsafe speed. Further, the law provides that no car shall move right or left on a road until the movement is safe. Distracted drivers often drift into another lane or even into oncoming traffic.

Thus, eating or drinking commonly results in a violation of these vehicle code sections.


California Vehicle Code 23103 states that a person who drives a vehicle disregarding the safety of others is guilty of reckless driving. Police officers are free to decide if a motorist has violated this statute. As an example, a driver who eats or drinks often takes his hands off the steering wheel. If the driver lost control of the car and swerved into traffic almost causing an accident, a police officer who saw that could cite the driver for violation of 23103.

The punishment for violation of 23103 is significant. Depending on the situation, the driver could go to jail for a period of up to 90 days. Also, the driver could pay a fine of up to $1,000.00.


Although not illegal, eating or drinking while driving puts the motorist and others at risk. It can cost the driver much more than the $5 he paid for the burger.