As of October 2015, the chances are that smoking behind the wheel will be illegal. A new law, which is expected to come into force this October, will mean that drivers who permit passengers to smoke while there are children in the car could face a fine of up to £10,000, whereas a passenger who is caught smoking could be fined up to £800. These figures are much larger than the penalty for a driver who lights up whilst behind the wheel, which will incur a fine of £60.
A recent study by Motors.co.uk revealed that 32% of drivers were in favour of a ban on smoking whilst driving. Alternative figures published by YouGov suggested that support for the ban was much greater, with around 80% of adults and 65% of smokers believing that a ban is necessary.
The ban has several focuses, one of which is the impact of the smoke on the health of passengers in the car. The environment causes cigarette smoke to be eleven times more concentrated than outdoors; this could pose a serious health risk to everyone in the vehicle, including the smoker, who is also exposed to more fumes than normal. The negative impacts of passive smoking have long been known, so it should be about time to stop ignoring the risks that are connected to it.
Smoking whilst driving also poses as a significant safety risk – even if the driver has got a cigarette out of the packet in anticipation of smoking, they still have to light it whilst driving. In many cases it will be possible to do this while the car is stationery, but many drivers do not pull over to light up. There is also a significant fire risk, particularly if a lit cigarette should be dropped and land out of reach of the driver. A rolled cigarette will go out, but a ‘tailor made’ one will not. Not only could this cause a fire, it could also cause a crash, as the driver’s attention will be taken off the road.
Eating behind the wheel can get you pulled over, and driving whilst on the phone is a criminal offence. Why the same strict laws are not already applied to smoking whilst driving is a mystery. Nick Clegg
has stated that he cannot see how this is going to be enforced and even hinted that it breached the civil liberties of drivers, but in the face of such compelling evidence, it’s hard to stick up for smoke-driving.