A Ticket for Drinking (Coffee) and Driving?

Written by Gregory Monte.

“Distracted” Driving

When most people think of distracted driving laws, they have in mind the prohibition on the use of a cell phone while driving.

For example, New Jersey has a law very similar to other states regarding these devices:

Title 39 Section 39:4-97.3“The use of a wireless telephone or electronic communication device by an operator of a moving motor vehicle on a public road or highway shall be unlawful except when the telephone is a hands-free wireless telephone …”

But apparently there are other related NJ laws which make eating, drinking, grooming and even having a conversation with a passenger illegal.

The NJ Office of the Attorney General indicates the following:

“Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

Other “Distracted” Driving Laws

While the prohibition of cell phone use (Title 39, Section 39:4-97.3) clearly covers the first two items on that list, the others are likely addressed by two other NJ statutes:

39:4-97. Careless driving
“A person who drives a vehicle carelessly, or without due caution and circumspection, in a manner so as to endanger, or be likely to endanger, a person or property, shall be guilty of careless driving.”

39:4-97.2 Driving, operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner, offense created; fines; surcharge.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, it shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner likely to endanger a person or property.”

But do motorists actually get tickets for eating, drinking or one of those other items?

Its entirely possible because, according to NJ’s 2018 Crackdown Report:

“Distracted driving takes many forms. Talking on or manipulating a cell phone, adjusting the radio, applying makeup, eating, or drinking can all distract a driver from the essential task of safe driving.”

If you look at the results of this 2018 Report, the police issued 819 reckless driving and 5,697 careless driving citations.  This is in addition to the 13,146 standard cell phone citations.


The Case of the Hash Brown Ticket

Or maybe some of those tickets were issued for merely eating a hash brown while at the wheel.  Why not?  After all, a Connecticut man was issued a citation for eating while driving: Hash brown to blame for $300 distracted driving ticket, not phone.  Fortunately for his driving record, he eventually won his case.  Unfortunately for his pocketbook, however, he spent over 3x as much money on his defense as the fine on the ticket.  Of course, if he had decided to defend himself, this would not have been necessary.

I started this blog to provide advice to ordinary people who want to fight unfair tickets on their own.  Its really not as difficult as most people tend to think it is.  All you really need is motivation and some time to do research/plan your case.  If my 17-year old son could do it, you probably can also.  When he got an unfair stop sign ticket, he used the information I discovered to win his case.  If you are interested in reading some specifics of how he applied my strategy to his case, check out two of my free PDFs.

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