I spoke recently with an employee who heard about a change in traffic laws to prevent eating while driving. While I was not familiar with the change, an editor of the Timber Times overheard the conversation and thought it would be helpful to provide an overview of the laws which might cause problems for otherwise law abiding drivers.
Texting while Driving (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241)
This is one everyone seems to struggle with, myself included. The law states that you cannot “physically hold or support” a “wireless telecommunications device” of any kind while driving. You can talk while driving and use an earpiece to receive calls, but if you need to dial a number, just pull over. If you have the phone in your hand, you can get a ticket.
Too Fast for Conditions (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-180)
Even if you are driving under the posted speed limit, if you are driving in an unsafe manner (for example, during heavy rain or through lots of traffic), you can still be ticketed for driving too fast for conditions. Do not think the posted speed limit will save you. Also, if your speed is really dangerous, the charge can be elevated to Reckless Driving (driving a vehicle “in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property”), which is a much more serious offense.
Three Lanes Merging into Two (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-123)
When you are on a street with three lanes merging to two or two lanes to one, make sure you have room in the other lane you are moving into and use your blinker. It is possible to be cited for unlawful lane change if you do not.
Failure to Secure Load (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-254)
If you are hauling off limbs or helping someone move, be careful to secure the items in the back of your truck or on a trailer. If they fall off, it can lead to criminal charges. This is also an offense that commonly leads to serious injury and civil lawsuits.
Window Tint (O.C.G.A. § 40-8-73.1)
Window tint on the side and rear windows must let 32% of the light in. Drivers occasionally buy vehicles with the windows already tinted. You should have the tint checked to make sure it won’t lead to a ticket.
Although most of these are generally minor offenses with small fines unlikely to affect your Driver’s License, if someone is injured or killed while you’re committing one of them, the charges can be severe. For example, a local defense attorney told me of a recent case in which a driver is being charged with vehicular homicide after allegedly driving too fast in wet conditions, hydroplaning off of the road, and striking and killing a pedestrian. And more likely, if you are texting while driving and cause an accident severely injuring another person, there is a high likelihood that you will be charged with a crime which could lead to significant jail time.
Also, not surprisingly, lots of the problems good drivers deal with is associated with the behavior of their children. In response to statistics showing the high chances of younger drivers being involved in an accident, the State of Georgia has passed several strict laws governing drivers under the age of 21. If a driver under 21 exceeds the speed limit by 24 miles per hour, his license will be suspended. Local solicitors also routinely ask for jail time and higher fines with excessive speeding by drivers under 21.
Finally, while I did not locate a state law specifically prohibiting eating while driving, there is a rule against distracted driving that could arguably extend to eating, especially in the event of an accident. However, acting reasonable under the circumstances, driving with caution, and treating law enforcement with respect should prevent trouble in the vast majority of these situations.