By Regan Joswiak*
On January 20, 2015, a man was pulled over in Georgia and was given a ticket for eating a cheeseburger while driving. The reason? Distracted driving.
Distracted driving laws vary by state and locality, but many are unclear about the definition of distracted driving. In Georgia, eating is not listed, but the law says that drivers cannot engage in actions that distract them from operating a vehicle safely.
In Texas, distracted driving laws have been limited to cell phone usage. Here are the following laws:
- Ban on all cell phones (handheld and hands-free) and texting for bus drivers.
- Ban on all cell phones (handheld and hands-free) and texting for novice drivers under 18.
- Ban on the use of handheld phones and texting in school zones.
As of January 1, 2015, Austin and San Antonio have banned cell phone use completely while driving. Fines will start being issued in February. A new law will allow Austin drivers to use hands-free devices with cell phones, however. Other devices and forms of communication that are allowed include calling 911, using two-way radios, and using GPS devices that are a part of the vehicle.
While there are currently no laws in Texas that reference eating or other activities that could be distracting—could you be cited for it? Possibly. In a recent article, the chief of Harker Heights Police Department offers his opinion on the Georgia case:
“We have statutes in Texas, such as reckless driving or weaving. We can cite the individual case,” he said. “So [the driver] might have been violating the law in Texas, too. Not specifically for eating a hamburger, but the manifestations.”
What do you think? What should be considered distracted driving?
If you’ve received a ticket, schedule an appointment at Student Legal & Mediation Services to discuss your options. Stop by our office at LSC 330, call us at (936) 294-1717, or visit us online at shsu.edu/legalservice.
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