Driver fined for eating his sandwich
UK Daily Mail | March 8, 2007
PAUL SIMS and LIZ HULL
A salesman has become the first driver to have points put on his licence for eating a sandwich at the wheel.
Keith Pemberton was also fined £60 after police stopped him for driving without due care.
He was pulled over and given a fixed penalty under the same law which forbids motorists from using mobile phones.
Introduced at the end of last month, the ban covers all drivers who are not fully in control of their vehicle.
Mr Pemberton, 29, spoke of his shock yesterday, claiming he had no idea the mobile ban also covered his cheese and pickle sandwich.
'In my mind, I was completely in control of the car,' he said.
'You see people putting on makeup and all sorts of things at the wheel.
'I've never been pulled over by the police for anything before and I think three points is a bit much.'
Mr Pemberton, who sells soft drinks, was travelling between two supermarkets in Warrington, Cheshire, when he opened the £2 sandwich.
As he drove his company Vauxhall Astra along the A49, he was spotted by officers who were looking for drivers using their mobiles.
'A policeman stepped out in front of me and pulled me over,' said Mr Pemberton, from Salford, Greater Manchester.
'He said I had committed an offence which was just as serious as speaking on my mobile.' He was told the new rules, which came into force on February 27, applied to eating behind the wheel, as well as making or receiving telephone calls. A day later Mr Pemberton entered his local police station to present his documents and was met with surprise when he was told why he had received the fine.
'The man behind the desk said he couldn't believe I had been given a ticket,' he said.
A spokesman for Cheshire Police yesterday defended its officers and insisted they now had the powers to act under the new law if a driver is caught reading a map or business documents, eating or drinking while driving.
'Much publicity has been given to the recent changes in the penalties for motorists for using their mobile phones while driving,' he said. 'But the law also covers offences relating to drivers not being in proper control of their vehicle and not concentrating fully on the road.'
The law means more drivers could end up being banned under the 'totting up' system if they accumulate 12 points.
Those who contest the fixed penalty in court face a maximum fine of £1,000 - or up to £2,500 for drivers of buses, coaches and goods vehicles.
The crackdown on distractions within the vehicle comes after research suggested motorists are twice as likely to crash if they are eating behind the wheel.
Mr Pemberton was caught eating at the wheel last Thursday.
He had his licence endorsed with three points and was fined £60 for 'not being in proper control' of his vehicle, which is an offence under the Road Traffic Act.
He said: 'The officer could have simply cautioned me and sent me on my way, but he made an example of me because of the new penalties for mobile phones.
'Where do you draw the line? Taking your hand off the wheel to change gear or to wind down your window could also be deemed as not in proper control.'