Eating food or consuming a beverage while driving. Is it a crime?
EATING FOOD OR CONSUMING A BEVERAGE WHILE DRIVING
While eating your meal or drinking a coffee in the car while driving will not mean that you are breaking the law, you still may be charged with a criminal offence such as dangerous driving or negligent driving where, because of eating or drinking while driving, your attention was distracted from the road contributing to an accident.
Below is discussion of dangerous driving written by our Principal Lawyer, Mr Michael Moussa.
A discussion of negligent driving will be posted in coming days.
WHAT IS DANGEROUS DRIVING?
The various kinds of dangerous driving offences are set out in section 52A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) which are as follows:
- Dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm;
- Aggravated dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm;
- Dangerous driving occasioning death; and
- Aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death;
An offence of Dangerous Driving is what is known as a Table 1 offence under the relevant legislation, which means it is to be dealt with in the Local Court unless an election is it is to be dealt with on indictment by the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The nature and elements of the offence of Dangerous Driving were considered in Williams v R  NSWCCA 286; (2012) 229 A Crim R 67 where it was said:
A person does not have to be shown to have been voluntarily and consciously managing and controlling the movement of the vehicle at the precise moment of impact: Even if the motor vehicle was not being driven dangerously at the precise moment of impact, a preceding period of driving in a dangerous manner may be so nearly contemporaneous with the impact as to satisfy this element of the offence
S52A (5) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) sets out a number of ways an impact involving the death of, or grievous bodily harm to, a person can occur: –
- The vehicle overturned, or left the road whilst conveying the deceased in or on that vehicle (whether or not he or she was a passenger or otherwise);
- A collision (impact) between the vehicle and any object, whilst the deceased was in or on the vehicle;
- A collision between the deceased and the vehicle;
- A collision between your vehicle and another vehicle;
- A collision between your vehicle and an object in which, or on which, or near which, the deceased was at the time of the impact.
- An impact with anything on, or attached to your vehicle; and/or
- An impact with anything falling from the vehicle.
The Court will take into consideration any aggravating factors involved in your case some examples include: –
- The injuries inflicted;
- Degree of speed;
- Showing off or competitive driving;
- Degree of intoxication or of substance abuse;
- Erratic or aggressive driving;
- Number of people put at risk;
- Length of the journey during which others were exposed to risk;
- Failure to heed warnings;
- Being involved in a police pursuit;
- Degree of sleep deprivation; and
- Failing to stop
WHAT MUST THE PROSECUTION PROVE?
Since Dangerous Driving offence is a criminal offence, the burden of proof lies on the Prosecution. The prosecution must prove each of the elements in the charge beyond reasonable doubt. That is a high standard of proof that the prosecution must achieve before someone can be convicted of Dangerous Driving.
To establish each of the Dangerous Driving offences, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt;
- You were driving the vehicle;
- Under the influence of intoxicating liquor or of a drug; or
- At a speed dangerous to another person(s); or
- In a manner dangerous to another person(s) and
Some of the possible defences available for those charged with Dangerous Driving are set out in Section 52A(iii) Crimes Act 1900(NSW) which states:
It is a defence to any charge under this section if grievous bodily harm occasioned by the impact was not in any way attributable:
- to the fact that the person charged was under the influence of intoxicating liquor or of a drug or a combination of drugs;
- to the speed at which the vehicle was driven, or
- To the manner in which the vehicle was driven
For a list of all defences please visit our dedicated defences pages.