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Driving while distracted: could a donut mean your downfall?

You're on your morning commute to work and you just rolled through the local coffee shop drive-thru. With the coffee cup in its holder, a jelly donut in one hand and your other hand on the wheel, you motor along listening to your favourite morning radio talk show. The blaring siren and blue lights behind you are almost an aside. Almost.

After your first major communication of the day, you drive off with a freshly inked ticket. The donut is leaving a sour taste in your mouth, but not as sour as thinking about the hundreds of dollars that donut just cost you. But, maybe not.

Could jelly mean jail?

Although drivers spotted eating and driving can't receive a ticket under Ontario's law banning hand held devices while driving, they can still face charges if a police officer believes their actions pose potential crash risks. A possible careless driving ticket could ensue. If they're convicted of careless driving, they'll automatically receive six demerit points, could be fined up to $2,000 and/or could find themselves behind bars for six months.

The bottom line is if a police officer thinks whatever you're doing behind the wheel of your moving vehicle -- although by definition may not be against the law -- could take your mind off driving safely, you may be pulled over and charged. Distracted driving is defined as "the diversion of attention from driving, as a result of the driver focusing on a non-driving object, activity event or person," according to the Canadian Council of Motor Transportation Administrators. That includes eating or drinking.

The definitive cant's

Here is a list of what you definitely can't do while operating a motor vehicle:

  • Text, dial or email from any hand-held wireless devices like a cell phone
  • Use hand-held electronics like an iPod, Mp3 player, GameBoy, etc.
  • Look at any display screens not related to driving like laptops, tablets, DVD players, etc.
  • Program devices like GPS, other than by a voice command

Even though eating and drinking aren't on that list, doing them while driving could lead a police officer to charge you with careless driving, or worse yet, dangerous driving. However, before you accept any potential repercussions, it's crucial to talk to a lawyer experienced with driving offences. You may be risking more than a steep hike in your insurance cost. A lawyer can thoroughly examine the details of your case and provide you with guidance and advice as to whether or not the offence is worth a court challenge.

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Driving while distracted: could a donut mean your downfall? | Bayne Sellar Ertel Carter