How I Almost Got A Traffic Ticket Because Of Chipotle Peanuts
Studies that have been done over the last few decades have taught us that distracted driving here in the United States is a huge problem. Distracted driving is responsible for hundreds of accidents per year, nationwide. In some cases, those accidents are serious or fatal.
It’s not just because of our phones, either. Most of us have seen other drivers shaving, fixing their hair (or putting on makeup), or reading (I knew a woman who used to read her scripts will driving to work) while they were on the road. And yes, of course, the biggest reason we get distracted while we’re behind the wheel.
As a result, police in Maine have started cracking down on distracted driving. Many are actively looking for people who are playing on their phones when they should be paying attention to driving.
Several weeks ago, I took a last minute trip to a nearby convenience store to get lottery tickets. Since I knew it was going to be at least another hour before I could eat dinner, I grabbed a bag of peanuts, too. I hopped in the car and headed for home. About thirty seconds after pulling out of the parking lot, I spotted blue lights behind me. I quickly pulled over, thinking he was going to drive on past. Nope. He was stopping me. Because the vehicle I was driving had a headlight out, it was not a huge surprise that I was getting pulled over.
The officer approached the driver’s window and asked if I knew why he was pulling over. My mouth full of peanuts, I explained that I figured it was because of the headlight. He explained that was one reason and that he thought he had seen me on my phone when I passed him. I told him that I wasn’t on my phone and motioned to the phone, still in its holder on my belt (yes, I am that kind of dork).
For a second, I couldn’t figure out why he thought I had been using my phone. Then, it hit me! What he thought was me holding my phone was actually me eating a handful of peanuts. It was a bigger bag of peanuts so, before I rolled out of the convenience store parking lot, I poured some into my hand and put the rest of the bag in the console between the seats.
My mouth still partly filled with peanuts, I tried to explain that it was peanuts. The poor cop looked at me and said “what?”. I choked down the rest of the nuts and tried again. This time, he got it.
He took my license and proof of insurance and went to his cruiser to run the necessary checks. He came back a few minutes later, told me to get the light fixed, and told me to have a good night.
We're lucky to have such great police officers in Augusta!
Here's where someone says, "But, technically, eating counts as distracted driving!"
The non-phone portion of Maine's distracted driving law says:
defines distracted driving as operating a motor vehicle while engaging in an activity “that is not necessary to the operation of the vehicle” and “that actually impairs, or would reasonably be expected to impair, the ability of the person to safely operate the vehicle.” When combined with other factors established by §2118, distracted driving can contribute to failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle, which is a traffic infraction.
So, it appears that the non-phone portion is up to the stopped officer's discretion.
Read the entire law HERE.