Eating and drinking laws



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If you’re running late or driving long distance, it can be tempting to gulp down a meal while you’re in the driver’s seat. However, eating or drinking while you’re driving can be more dangerous than you may think. A study by researchers from the Griffin Health Institute found that eating while driving is just as dangerous as sending text messages, and increases your chance of an accident on the roadi.

While Australia has no specific laws against eating and drinking non-alcoholic drinks behind the wheel, if you’re distracted while driving, you could face a fine and loss of demerit points. In fact, this was exactly what happened to a Perth woman in 2018, who was fined for eating cereal with a spoon while drivingii. See the applicable rule and penalty for each state in the table below.

Remember, it’s also illegal to drink alcohol while driving in every part of Australia, no matter whether you are under the limit or not.


State Rule and Penalty
NSW Drivers who are eating or drinking could be given a penalty for not having proper control of their vehicle. In extreme cases, drivers can also be charged with negligent driving if snacking distracts them and results in a crash.
Fine: $448
Demerits: 3 points
QLD It’s against the law to drive without due care and attention. The Queensland Department of Transport has been targeting driver distraction, with new laws such as an increase in penalties for mobile phone use.
Fine: up to $4000
Demerits: 3 points
NT Eating and drinking may be considered “driving in a dangerous manner” if it has a negative or dangerous impact on your driving.
Fine: $500
Demerits: 3 points
WA Drivers who are eating or drinking can be given a penalty for careless driving.
Fine: $600
Demerits: 3 points
SA Drivers who are eating or drinking could be given a penalty for not having proper control of their vehicle. The SA Driver’s Handbook explicitly lists eating and drinking as distractions that can take the driver’s attention away from the road. Driving without due care and attention can result in a penalty.
Fine: $184
Demerits: 2 points
ACT Drivers who are eating or drinking could be given a penalty for not having proper control of their vehicle. You can also be given a harsher penalty for negligent driving if your eating results in a crash.
Fine: $292
Demerits: None
TAS Drivers who are eating or drinking could be given a penalty for not having proper control of their vehicle, or driving without due care and attention. The Tasmanian Government guidelines for novice drivers instructs drivers to avoid eating or drinking while driving, as it distracts from the road.
Fine: $163
Demerits: 3 points
VIC If eating or drinking interferes with your driving or causes an accident, you could be charged with careless driving.
Fine: $387
Demerits: 3 points.



The information in this article is current as of the 13th of April 2020. Laws and penalties may have changed since this article was created.


i SBS News, Eating while driving is more dangerous than you thought, viewed April 2020, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/eating-while-driving-is-more-dangerous-than-you-thought

ii Perth Now, Perth’s ‘cereal offender’ slapped with $300 fine, viewed April 2020, https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/traffic/perths-cereal-offender-slapped-with-300-fine-ng-b88801104z


The information above comes from the following additional sources:

Mylicence.SA, Driver Distraction and Inattention, viewed April 2020, https://mylicence.sa.gov.au/road-rules/the-drivers-handbook/distraction

Tasmanian Government, Novice, viewed April 2020, https://www.transport.tas.gov.au/novice/top_menu/safe_driving_tips

Sunshine Coast Daily, Is eating while driving illegal in Australia?, viewed April 2020, https://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/eating-behind-the-wheel-in-australia-could-cost-yo/3579624/

Transport Tas, Traffic Offences – Full List, viewed April 2020, https://www.transport.tas.gov.au/licensing/offences/traffic_offences/lister_full

Transport for NSW, Search Demerit Point Offences, viewed April 2020, https://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/index.cgi?action=demeritpoints.form

Vicroads, Demerit Point Offences, viewed April 2020, https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/licences/demerit-points-and-offences/demerit-offences

Mylicence.sa, Offences and Penalties, viewed April 2020, https://mylicence.sa.gov.au/road-rules/offences-and-penalties

Transport WA, Driving Offences, viewed April 2020, https://www.transport.wa.gov.au/licensing/driving-offences-speeding-alcohol-and-traffic.asp

NT.GOV.AU, Traffic Offences and Penalties, viewed April 2020, https://nt.gov.au/driving/driving-offences-and-penalties/traffic-offences-and-penalties

Queensland Government, Demerit Points Schedule, viewed April 2020, https://www.qld.gov.au/transport/safety/fines/demerit/points


Disclaimer

This article has been prepared by Allianz Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL 234708 (“Allianz”). Information contained in this article is accurate as at 13th April 2020 and may be subject to change. In some cases information has been provided to us by third parties and while that information is believed to be accurate and reliable, its accuracy is not guaranteed in any way. Any opinions expressed constitute our views at the time of issue and are subject to change. Neither Allianz, nor its employees or directors give any warranty of accuracy or accept responsibility for any loss or liability incurred by you in respect of any error, omission or misrepresentation in this article.