Snack and drive?

“Breakfast is ready,” Sammy called up to his wife.

“No time!” Helen replied. “I’ve got the huge Maloney presentation.”

“Well, you still need a good breakfast.”

Helen came down into the kitchen, buttoning up her suit jacket.

“I’ll just grab a doughnut at work,” Helen said. “Mmm, smells good!”

“Eggs and bacon and nine grain bread.”

Helen shook her head. “I can’t afford the time.”

“I’ll make you a sandwich to go!”

Helen hugged him. “You think of everything.”

She grabbed the sandwich and headed out to the car.

She carefully placed the sandwich on the seat beside her, away from her briefcase. “That’s all I need. Presentation notes covered in fried egg.”

The traffic got heavy. Helen glanced at her watch. “I won’t have time to eat the sandwich at the office. Maybe I’ll just grab a few bites now.”

She unwrapped the sandwich with one hand and took a bite.

“Hits the spot.”

A cop car drove by.

“Looks like some dangerous driving,” Officer Brownstein observed.

“It’s only a sandwich!” Officer Krupko protested. “She’s not exactly a menace on the road.”

“She took a hand off the wheel!,” Brownstein insisted.

“Fine, we’ll stop her. But you’re writing up the report.”

They pulled Helen over.

“Officer, is there a problem?” Helen patted her mouth with a napkin.

“Madam, that’s a car, not a diner.”

“Excuse me?”

“Are you driving or eating? Because you can’t do both safely,” the officer insisted.

“But I just took a few bites…”

“And took a hand off the wheel. That’s dangerous driving.”

Helen looked at her watch. “Please! I don’t have time for a ticket.”

“If you made time to eat, we wouldn’t be here.”

“I’m fighting this in court!”

IN THE COURTROOM

Helen was outraged. “I just took my hand off the wheel for a moment! Sneezing would have been more dangerous. I’m a safe, albeit hungry, driver!”

The cop was stern. “She wasn’t in proper control of her car. People have to stop using their cars as offices and dining rooms!”

Is Helen liable? You! Be The Judge. Then look below for the decision.

THE DECISION

“Guilty,” decided the Judge. “By eating at the wheel, Helen wasn’t in proper control of a vehicle. There is no correlation between pushing a button on a radio, or changing gear and eating whilst driving.”

Today’s column is based on a case from the U.K. The characters and the scenarios are fictional. Any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. The information in this column does not constitute legal advice. If you have a similar problem, consult a lawyer in your province. Elissa Bernstein is a lawyer and internationally syndicated columnist. Copyright 2009 Haika Enterprises, all rights reserved.

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