Under Clark County Code 14.60.190, Las Vegas police have the discretion to ticket drivers who are not giving “full time and attention to the operation of a motor vehicle.” Theoretically, this includes drivers who are eating. Violating CCC14.60.190 by driving distracted is a misdemeanor in Nevada. The maximum penalties are 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
In practice, police will not ticket drivers they see drinking non-alcoholic beverages from a cup or through a straw unless they are taking their eyes off the road. But drivers who are eating solid foods while behind the wheel are more vulnerable to tickets since eating takes more coordination and attention than drinking.
The safest best is not to eat anything while behind the wheel and to limit drinking to red lights. Otherwise, the police may attribute any swerve or erratic movement to the driver being too distracted by eating or drinking.
Distracted driving crimes in Nevada
In addition to CCC 14.60.190, Nevada has various statutes that prohibit operating a motor vehicle while distracted. A recently-passed law is the Nevada crime of texting while driving (NRS 484B.165), which prohibits handling a cell phone while behind the wheel. The best way to get around this law is for drivers to use a Bluetooth device to talk on the phone or to dictate and hear texts. Police who see drivers fiddling with their cell phones risk being ticketed for this offense, which is also a misdemeanor.
A more serious traffic offense is the Nevada crime of reckless driving (NRS 484B.653). This goes beyond careless driving. Instead, this comprises people who drive “in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of the persons or property.”
Eating while behind the wheel probably would not rise to the level of reckless driving unless the driver had both hands off the wheel or was literally preparing food or pouring condiments. Instead, reckless driving charges are typically reserved for people who:
- speed way over the limit,
- run red lights,
- strike medians or shoulders,
- defy an officer’s order to stop their car, or
- drive erratically during road rage
Reckless driving can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether someone gets hurt.
Driving with an open container of alcohol in Nevada
Under NRS 484B.150, it is generally illegal to drive with an open container of alcohol in Nevada even if the driver is not drinking it or holding the container. This offense is typically prosecuted as a misdemeanor.
There are certain exceptions in Las Vegas where open containers are allowed in a moving vehicle as long as the occupants — and the not the driver — have the containers:
- the living quarters of a house coach or house trailer;
- taxis (but not Ubers or Lyfts);
- limos as long as there is a partition between the driver’s seat and the passenger area of the car; and
- party buses
Driving while eating marijuana edibles in Nevada
Although recreational marijuana is now legal in Nevada, it remains illegal in any location outside of a residence. Therefore, people caught eating marijuana edibles can be busted for marijuana possession. A first-time offense is a misdemeanor carrying a $600 fine.