When is a traffic light not a traffic light, and is it illegal to eat while driving? Find the answers here.

Traffic light on Joe Rodota Trail

I travel up and down Dutton on foot, bicycle, and in my car quite often. Despite there being a traffic light on Dutton Avenue where the Joe Rodota Trail intersects, cars will often drive through the red light when there are no longer bicycles or pedestrians crossing. Is this a ticketable offense? – Kate Polacci, Santa Rosa

The answer comes from Sergeant Mike Numainville, Santa Rosa Police Department, Traffic Bureau:

This one is an easy one.  Is this a ticket(able) offense? Yes. This is a red light violation just like any other intersection. It’s unfortunate that some drivers are treating it like a crosswalk only.  I talked to our motor officers and they told me they frequently do write tickets at this intersection.  Hopefully, your reader will be able to see them doing so in the near future.

Eating while driving

I am under the assumption that it is frowned upon by the Police Dept  to eat and drive. Sunday April 7 I was on Stony Point Rd around 1pm and saw a police van being driven by a man eating a sandwich. It was very visible through the drivers window he was eating. I had read an article of an accident caused by someone eating while driving. Can a person be cited for this? — Betty DeConter

Officer Jonathan Sloat of the California Highway Patrol answers this question:

Any type of distraction behind the wheel is frowned upon if it diverts your attention from the road. The act of eating itself is not a violation, therefore not citable. However, if, as a result of the distracting activity, you could be cited for weaving, speeding, tailgating, etc. One could even conceivably be cited for, “Unsafe speed for the conditions.” Example; If a driver can not safely follow the rules of the road because he is distracted while eating, the safe speed for the condition of eating for him is 0 mph.


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  1. Fred Mangels

    I had a pretty long back and forth with an old girlfriend almost 40 years ago over eating and driving. She hailed from the Los Angeles area and I from Orange County, although we lived in Eureka at the time.

    She insisted she was taught in driver ed that eating while driving was against the law. She even had some friends who went to school with her back her up. I insisted it was not against the law, at least according to the driver ed class I went to.

    We happened to be “discussing” this right as we were passing by the CHP office in Arcata one day so we stopped there to settle the issue. The officer at the desk just shook his head, No.

    As the article explains, violations caused by distractions such as eating are against the law but eating by itself isn’t.

    April 18th, 2013 9:59 am

  2. Tony

    The so called intersection at the Rodoto trail should have never been made into anything more than a crosswalk. Too many times the light there turns red for no reason. People that have more to do than sit at a stop light for no reason will get fed up & travel through that light for good reason. Just another example of poor spending!

    April 18th, 2013 11:52 am

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