Eating while driving is something most drivers will admit to at some stage. While it seems harmless, there are just some cuisines not meant for cruising. But is it illegal to eat while driving in Australia?

In this post we’ll answer that question. We’ll also check the rules in each state to be extra sure. Scroll down and you’ll also find a recommended list of foods you shouldn’t eat while driving, and some better options.

Related: Is it illegal to drive with thongs in Australia?

A young woman with frizzy hair eating ice cream with a spoon - but is it illegal to eat while driving in Australia

Is it illegal to eat while driving in Australia?

There are no laws against eating while driving in Australia, so it is not technically illegal. However, states have different definitions of dangerous driving, and some drivers have been charged for eating while driving. This includes a 19 year-old Perth woman, who was fined $300 and given 3 demerit points for driving without due care and attention. So in some cases, eating while driving can get you in trouble.

Each state has slightly different rules, so we’ve broken this question down state by state. If you’re happy with the general answer, click here to jump to our list of recommended driving snacks.


Related: Looking for a hire car in Australia? Find your nearest GoGet here!


Is it illegal to eat while driving in NSW?

No, it’s not illegal to eat while driving in NSW. However, the NSW state government has been seriously cracking down on dangerous driving. That’s mostly meant enforcing existing laws. However, the term ‘distracted-driving’ has been used a lot, which could mean a future expansion of that definition to include eating while driving.

Is it illegal to eat while driving in Queensland?

While it’s not illegal to eat while driving in Queensland, the state government is aware of the dangers of distracted driving. The transport department’s page on distracted driving lists non-illegal distractions, including changing the radio station. If they’re making note of potential dangers that aren’t illegal, they could be primed to change the law if new evidence comes in.

Speaking of evidence, Queensland research found eating while driving could be as dangerous as texting while driving. So, the case for changing the law could be closer that you think!

Is it illegal to eat while driving in Victoria?

No, it’s not illegal to eat while driving in Victoria. But if that changes, technology is making it more and more likely you’ll be caught. Even back in 2014, Victoria police were using cameras to detect unbuckled seat belts from up to 700 metres away. Imagine what they’re going to be using now, or in a few years time!

Is it illegal to eat while driving in South Australia?

No, there are no laws outlawing eating while driving in South Australia. However, SA’s Driver Handbook is very explicit about what actions can distract drivers, and eating is one. With state guidelines already mentioning it, it’s not hard to imagine a dangerous driving case going against a snacking driver in the future.

Is it illegal to eat while driving in Tasmania?

No, Tasmania doesn’t have a law against eating while driving. But it’s explicitly mentioned as a distraction in the state’s novice driver guidelines. So the state is aware that eating while driving could be a problem, and might decide to enforce it one day.

Is it illegal to eat while driving in Canberra?

The ACT doesn’t outlaw it, so it’s not illegal to eat while driving in Canberra. However, the Territory’s distracted driver laws include a $279 penalty for driving without proper control. That could be applied to you if you eat while driving and it causes you to lose control of the vehicle.

Is it illegal to eat while driving in Western Australia?

While there’s no specific WA law against eating while driving, there is precedent for West Australian police to lay charges for it. In April 2018, a Perth woman got a $300 fine and 3 demerit points for eating cereal behind the wheel. The official charge was driving without due care and attention. So yes, in some cases it is illegal to eat while driving in WA.

Is it illegal to eat while driving in the Northern Territory?

It’s not illegal to eat while driving in the Northern Territory. However, NT police have previous warned against it. Senior Sergeant Garry Smith told the NT News about a man he saw eating cereal behind the wheel, “Don’t do it — you do not have effective control of the vehicle”. If that’s the opinion of one NT officer, it might not take much for them to charge the next person they see eating while driving!

Two bowls of cereal with fruit, seperated by crossed spoons - cereal tastes great, but is it illegal to eat while driving australia

Is it a good idea to eat while driving?

It depends, and the research is mixed. One paper found eating while driving could be as bad as texting while driving. But other research found a weak link between eating and accidents.

That said, anything that takes your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road can make driving more dangerous. So not eating while driving is probably safer than eating while driving.

But with our busy lives, sometimes it’s unavoidable. To help you out, we’ve made a list of foods you probably shouldn’t eat while driving, along with safer alternatives.

Food to avoid eating while driving

Hamburgers

This is one of the most common foods eaten behind the wheel, thanks to drive-through fast food. But because they require two hands to eat, they are serious distractions! People have been charged overseas for driving while eating hamburgers, so it’s possible it could happen to you! To stay safe, ask for french fries. Or you could opt for one handed fast food like nuggets, or popcorn chicken.

Cereal

Yes, this happens. Often. Really often. We get it, you’ve got a long commute, and you want to get breakfast in before you get to work. But cereal needs two hands to eat, and all that liquid is just asking for trouble. Instead of a crunchy chocolate milkshake, try a crunchy granola bar.

Ice Cream

The humble ice cream has already caused issues on the road. An ex-premier league footballer caused a pile-up by eating ice cream while driving. What happened next? He spent 18 months in prison! Instead of an ice cream, why not have a chocolate bar instead? You’ll still get that sugar rush, but you won’t risk a dangerous melt-onto-your-jeans moment.

Noodles

Anything requiring utensils to eat probably isn’t safe to eat while driving. Noodles are very high on that list, requiring chopsticks or a fork, as well as another hand to hold the bowl. Stay safe, and trade soba for sushi.

Don’t believe anyone would seriously eat noodles while driving? Read this, and watch this:

 

 

This post shouldn’t be regarded as legal advice. Check that this information applies to your circumstances by speaking with your local road authority.