Drivers are legally obligated to pay attention and do everything they can to avoid an accident. That is why we sit straight, hands on the wheel, and keep our eyes on the horizon. Even so, distracted driving is one of the leading causes of automobile accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
What happens when someone hits you and explains that they were eating a drive-thru meal or drinking their morning coffee? Is eating while driving illegal in South Carolina?
Is Eating and Driving Legal in SC?
There is no official law against the driver consuming food or drink while operating a vehicle.
Instead, South Carolina law defines specific rules regarding seatbelts, passengers, and use of hands-free cellular devices. There are also general rules of law prohibiting distracted and negligent driving.
It is not automatically illegal to eat a sandwich or drink coffee in the driver’s seat. It is also not officially illegal to do other things like put on makeup while driving, but these actions are still potentially negligent. That’s because these actions create visual, manual, and cognitive distractions, respectively taking a driver’s eyes, hands, and mind off of the road.
Interestingly, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety has posted official advice about distracted driving to avoid eating while driving. While there is no specifics statute relating to food and the operation of a vehicle in the legal codes, eating while driving is a recognized hazard because source of distraction.
Liability for Negligence if Eating While Driving
Eating while driving should be avoided whenever possible. Like any other task that takes one or both hands away from the wheel or requires someone to look at anything other than the road, it’s best to wait until the car is not in motion.
Of course, drivers do many things very carefully with one hand. They might grab their paid parking stub, adjust the GPS, skip a song on the radio, or reassure a child. These things are necessities that can be done carefully — often with the help of an attentive passenger. Eating can also be accomplished this way, one careful bite at a time.
However, any time a driver disregards necessary care to other drivers while eating, these actions become negligent. For instance, a driver cannot be pulled over by the police solely because of eating or drinking, but a driver can be pulled over when an officer sees a vehicle swerving and steering erratically.
Liability After Creating a Risk
When a driver willfully creates an unreasonable risk, the driver is liable for the consequences of that risk. In fact, a driver who seeks to avoid liability by making the excuse that they were eating sets themselves up to be seen as even more negligent for choosing to take this risk while committing the traffic violation that led to the collision.
If You Were Hit by Someone Who was Eating While Driving, We Can Help.
Eating while driving is not an excuse for dangerous behavior on the road. If you were injured by someone who was distracted by their sandwich or morning coffee, our team at David R. Price, Jr., P.A. can help you defend your right to compensation from a distracted driver. Request a free consultation today to discuss your situation for free.
FAQs About Accident Fault and Negligence in SC
Is South Carolina an at-fault state?
South Carolina is a modified comparative fault, or comparative negligence state. This means that only the driver with the most fault for the collision pays. However, the amount paid is reduced by the percentage that the other driver was also at-fault.
What is negligence in a car accident?
Drivers are legally required to pay attention at all times and do everything they can to avoid an accident. Negligence is any act or omission that a reasonable driver would not have done that contributed to the accident. Unreasonable acts include taking one’s hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road to perform non-vital tasks inside the car, like eating or drinking.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.