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Food, drink, driving and the law – we debunk the myths

by Saima Omar | 05 Jul 2019

We all know that it’s illegal to drink alcohol and drive, but is it illegal to eat and drive? We did our research so that we can set the record straight on common questions around food, drink, driving and the law.

Question 1: Is it illegal to eat whilst driving?

Answer: No, it’s not illegal to eat whilst driving.

But, if you get distracted whilst getting your munch on behind the wheel, the police could prosecute you for careless driving, an offence which carries an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three penalty points.

Law Alert! Be careful when grabbing yourself a cheeky burger at the drive-thru. If you get caught using your mobile phone to pay while your engine’s running you could be risking a fine.

Question 2: Is it illegal to drink when driving?

Answer: You can only drink non-alcoholic beverages when driving.

Just like eating behind the wheel, taking a swig of water or coffee while you’re driving is not illegal, but it could carry the same careless driving penalty if you’re spotted by police.

That said, in some situations, it can be more dangerous to not have a drink in the car with you. Scientists at Loughborough University found that driving while dehydrated can be just as dangerous as drink-driving.

If you’re heading off on a long journey, particularly in hot weather, keep dehydration at bay by always having a bottle of water in your car.

Question 3: Is it illegal to smoke and drive?

Answer: Nope, it’s not illegal to smoke and drive.

Smoking while driving itself is not illegal, but just like eating and drinking, if it causes distraction behind the wheel you could face a charge of careless driving.

Law Alert! Following recent changes to the law, if you’re travelling with passengers aged under 18, it IS illegal to smoke in the car.

Question 4: Is it illegal to have a light on in a car while driving?

Answer: Strictly speaking no, but…

If a police officer pulls you over and deems your interior light to be a driving distraction they could charge you with careless driving.

On top of that, if the light is judged to be dazzling or distracting to other road users, such as those driving behind you, you can be charged for that too.

Question 5: Is it illegal to have open alcohol in a car?

Answer: It is for you but not for your passengers.

It’s not illegal for a passenger to be drinking alcohol while you drive, so in that sense it’s not illegal to have open alcohol containers in the car (unless you are supervising a learner driver).

When on the road, make sure you always observe UK drink-driving laws, which state that you can only drive if under the national drink-drive limit. If you don’t you could face heavy fines and potentially, a permanent driving ban.

Question 6: How many drinks can I have and still drive?

Answer: NONE!

The old myth that men can have ‘a pint or two’ or women a large glass of wine and still be safe to drive afterwards is rubbish.

Your blood-alcohol level depends on many factors other than the alcoholic drinks you consume – whether you’ve eaten or exercised, how tired you are, or if you’re taking any medication. These can all affect how your body processes the chemical.

Our advice is to make sure you’re safe enough to drive by simply not drinking any alcohol in the first place.

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