MILLIONS of UK drivers sip on a coffee or bottle of water when behind the wheel. Brits risk being hit with hefty penalties if they take their eyes off the road to have a drink when driving.
While it’s not illegal to have a non-alcoholic beverage when driving, drivers can be hit with a careless driving charge if it causes them to be distracted.If you take your attention off the road to have a refreshment, police officers can deem you were “driving without due care and attention”
Motorists can also find themselves in trouble if they’re seen eating behind the wheel.Driving without due care and attention, or careless driving, carries a £100 on-the-spot fine and up to three penalty points on your licence.
But in more serious cases where someone has been injured, you could face an unlimited fine, up to nine penalty points and even a court-imposed driving ban – although for the majority of motorists, the fine won’t exceed £5,000.An Australian man was recently fined $173 (£94) for drinking water behind the wheel on a 39-degree day.Another Aussie was threatened with a $500 (£256) fine and three penalty points on her licence because she was drinking a coffee when driving.
While officers are more likely to give a warning than a fine, it is essential to keep your concentration on other road users.If you need a drink or something to eat, you should do it when you’ve completely stopped or pulled over.Neil Greig, director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, said: “Eating at the wheel is just another classic example of multi-tasking that can take your attention away from safe driving.
“Obvious cases such as juggling hot drinks or a sandwich can be easily spotted by traffic police who can issue an on the spot ticket for careless driving.”That quick snack could end up costing you £100 fine plus three points on your licence so it’s always worth taking a proper break.
“Even if you try to hide that swift chocolate bar you are eating if it leads to a loss of control crash and a more serious charge, then the courts may take the fact you were eating into account and increase your fine and ban.
“It is always worth remembering with careless driving it is the impact on your driving and how it is seen by the police to effect other road users that leads to the charge, so any form of eating could land you in trouble if you end up swerving or weaving across the road.”