How Eating An Ice Cream Bar May Have Led To A $350 Fine In Australia

Over the last few years, the Australian government has cracked down on citizens who use their smartphones while driving. In 2019, New South Wales Roads Minister Andrew Constance even said, "There is no doubt drink-driving as far as I'm concerned is on a par with mobile phone use" in terms of the danger that it poses on the road. The state of New South Wales tested a new technology to catch drivers using their phones while driving (via AP News). This year, the state of Victoria announced plans to use devices designed to spot drivers who are on their phones and will reportedly issue large fines as a deterrent (via

However, the Finder Safe Driving Report 2021 found that food, not mobile phones, is likely the biggest distraction on Australia's roads (via 9News). Of the 925 people surveyed, 45% admitted to snacking while driving. Texting only accounted for 13% of unsafe driving behavior, and answering the phone (not hands-free) made up another 8%. So it seems that if cops see someone driving with an object in their hand, it's pretty likely to be food. But maybe it just looks like drivers are eating their phones.

Perhaps that's why in November 2020, Michelle Course was stopped by traffic police in Melbourne, Victoria, for supposedly using her phone while driving (via 9Now). But it appears that the 34-year-old was simply enjoying a Magnum Ego ice cream bar, which she said got confused with a mobile phone!

The fine was eventually withdrawn

Per 9Now, Michelle Course said she only had an ice cream bar in her hand before police accused her of using a phone while driving. Despite showing her Magnum wrapper and a six-minute old receipt to the highway patrolman when she got pulled over, Course received a fine of roughly $350 (496 Australian dollars). Speaking with "A Current Affair," she said, "There's no way I could be eating my Magnum Ego, holding my phone, and driving at the same time." Although she was prepared to fight her fine in court, the police withdrew it about a year later, which Course said "will make a big difference" during the Christmas season. 

Even though Course was apparently more interested in ice cream than in her phone, that doesn't mean eating a Magnum bar behind the wheel is safe. The Barnes Firm reports, based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics, that consuming food or a beverage while driving increases the risk of getting into a car accident by 80% in the U.S. Reaching for an object increases the chances of an accident eightfold. So if someone were to spill food and reach for something to clean it up, that could have a bad outcome. Considering statistics like that, it seems like the Aussie driver may have had a lucky escape with the mobile phone mix-up!