Nearly sixty per cent of smokers are running the risk of getting rolled up with a hefty fine, or even a road ban, while smoking or vaping behind the wheel.
Indeed, research commissioned by the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, has revealed that 57 per cent of smokers with a full driving licence surveyed said they draw on a cigarette or vape while driving without realising this may lead to fines.
Of those who admit to lighting up behind the wheel, just under one in four (24 per cent) said they do so often, and almost half (49 per cent) said they do so only occasionally. Meanwhile, 16 per cent responded that they only vape or smoke on long journeys and one in ten (9 per cent) said they only smoke if they have no passengers in their vehicle.
Although smoking or vaping while driving itself is not illegal, smoking in a vehicle with a roof with anyone under the age of 18 is prohibited. Furthermore, drivers could be slapped with a £100 fine for careless driving if the police conclude that the driver failed to properly control their vehicle because they were smoking.
Motorists who are distracted by cigarette or vape smoke can be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention. The plume of smoke can produce a visual impairment similar to glare from the sun, which can lead to disorientation and loss of control, often resulting in accidents.
And in more serious cases, or those contested in court, the charge can attract a maximum £5,000 fine, up to nine penalty points and even a court-imposed driving ban. In a further potential blow to motorists, insurers aren’t likely to cover any damage or injuries sustained in a crash if vision is compromised by smoke.
Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, commented: “It may be tempting for smokers to light up while behind the wheel, and while this may be legal, smokers should be aware that ultimately this could lead to a substantial fine, something nobody needs during the cost-of-living crisis.
“But more importantly, smoking can lead to a range of behaviours and distractions which can put road users lives at unnecessary and totally avoidable risk. These include driving with only one hand on the wheel, clouds of smoke impairing vision and even the risk of dropping the cigarette. If that’s not enough to put the cigarette down, I don’t know what is.”
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