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You can read billboards and street signs while driving. You can even read the license plates and lengthy bumper stickers on other cars while you’re behind the wheel. But can you read a book while driving, even if it’s not on your phone?

Reading while driving falls under the distracted driving laws

Cab driver reads a book in his car
The cab driver reads a book in his car. | Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

Although there is no clear law stating that you can’t read a book while driving, it could fall under the distracted driving laws in most states. This includes digital books in addition to physical ones. So, while you may get the itching feeling to break out your first-edition copy of “War and Peace” while sitting in afternoon traffic, it’s not a good idea to do so.

The inherent dangers of reading a book while driving are fairly obvious, as they’re similar to the risks you take when staring at your phone while driving. If anything, reading a book could be worse as you’ll have to pay attention to the lines in every paragraph to get anything out of it.

The Zebra reports that distracted driving claims eight lives per day, or approximately 3,500 lives per year. Additionally, more than 400,000 motorists are injured each year.

However, if you need a refresher, here are the dangers of reading while driving, according to the Cerusi and Gunn Law Firm:

  • Failing to scan the road ahead
  • Failing to notice a stopped vehicle
  • Failing to notice a changing traffic light
  • Running a light or stop sign
  • Failing to stop at a crosswalk
  • Failing to yield to a right-of-way
  • Speeding or breaking other roadway rules
  • Tailgating or following too closely
  • Making an unsafe lane change
  • Failing to stop on time due to delayed reflexes

Alternatives to reading while driving

A taxi driver reads a book as he waits in his taxicab.
A taxi driver reads a book as he waits in his taxicab. | Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

If you can’t wait until you get home to finish that time travel novel you just can’t get enough of, we suggest listening to it via audiobook instead. You can play an audiobook straight from your phone if your car has Bluetooth. Also, if your car’s infotainment system is compatible with Apple Carplay or Android Auto, you should be able to play an audiobook from one of the available apps on the display.

Another alternative is to listen to a podcast from your phone. Although they aren’t books, podcasts can fill your brain with all types of useful (and useless) information. Listening to a TED talk can also quench your thirst for knowledge and give you ideas while focusing on the road ahead. No matter which of these alternatives you choose, they most likely won’t distract you while driving.

Don’t read a book while driving

A woman reads a book in her car.
A woman reads a book in her car. | Edilzon Gamez/Getty Images

Although you may think that taking your eyes off the road to peak at a sentence won’t harm anything, it might. If you’re caught reading a book while driving, it is possible to get pulled over by the police and even receive a ticket.

Ultimately, stick to audio sources for entertainment while you’re behind the wheel. They are safer and not illegal.