If you caught any news or have had a good water cooler chat the past few days, chances are you have heard about Madison Turner, the Alabama native who was pulled over recently in Atlanta for eating a cheeseburger while driving. Now, before you freak out wondering if the cops will come a knocking for you (since you have undoubtedly done the same thing), read this post.
Madison Turner was pulled over last week for driving down the road while eating a cheeseburger. According to the cop, the had observed Turner driving a couple of miles eating the burger after leaving a local McDonald's in Cobb County. "You can't just go down the road eating a hamburger" Turner says the cop told him. Notably, the cop did not note any driving vigilance or other issues on the citation he was given, nor did he mention any problems about driving to Turner.
So, is it illegal to go down the road eating? No.
The "miscellaneous provisions" of Georgia law say:
"A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle, provided that, except as prohibited by Code Sections 40-6-241.1 and 40-6-241.2, the proper use of a radio, citizens band radio, mobile telephone, or amateur or ham radio shall not be a violation of this Code section."
The other two code sections cited in the law refer to Georgia's cell phone and texting while driving laws. They make no mention of eating, or doing any of the millions of other things we do while driving down the road on a daily basis. While the law is open for a cop's interpretation with its "any actions" language, clearly the intent of the law is to deter those driving while distracted by phones and other mobile devices. Any first year law student knows that laws cannot be read in a bubble. They must be analyzed in a manner that takes in to account their placement within the code as well as their interplay with other code sections. Clearly, the spirit and intent of this code section is to punish "distracted drivers" using phones to talk, text, or otherwise be a distraction.
Even if a Judge were to say the law could apply to "any actions", in Madison's case, the cop ADMITS there were no problems with Madison's driving. This is what the case will turn on. If Turner were to loose his case and it be appealed, is an appeals court really going to uphold a punishment for doing one of a million tasks while driving even when you commit no traffic violation? I would certainly hope not. The floodgates would be wide open for anyone doing anything but driving with their eyes on the road and two hands on the wheel to face prosecution. If the Georgia legislature intends for everyone to drive their car in a robotic manner, without any interaction with their surroundings, then the lawmakers should change the law.
Bottom line: this case is dumped by the Cobb County Solicitor's Office before trial, or the Judge finds Turner not guilty. Most of us can appreciate laws and their application to keep our roads and society safe, but this case is just plain cheesy. Besides, how many cops have you driven by chomping down, or better yet on their laptop computers while driving??
What do you think? Are our roads safer with folks like Madison Turner taken off them or was this cop a bit too zealous? Comment below.