For today’s cigarette smoker, the world can be pretty unwelcoming place! More and more countries are putting strict legislation in place, making smoking in public ever more difficult for tobacco lovers. And of course, for the sake of everyone’s health that can only be a good thing.
But while most of us know the dangers of smoking and passive smoking, there’s a new danger we need to be aware of: smoking while driving.
Yes, for smokers, the car seems to be a last bastion of free will – a place where they can light up without a care. Or so they think. The sad fact is though, more and more car accidents are caused by smoking at the wheel. And on reflection, it’s not hard to see why.
Statistics show that ‘impairment or distraction’ is one of the four main causes of car accidents – up there with driver error, speeding and reckless driving. And smoking is undoubtedly a major distraction while driving for a number of reasons. Here are just some of the possible scenarios that can occur:
- Lighting up or relighting a cigarette distracts the driver’s attention from the road for the time it takes to hit an obstacle, another car or even a pedestrian – with potentially fatal consequences.
- A dropped cigarette – whether unlit or, worse still alight – causes another potentially fatal distraction. Bending down to retrieve may take your eyes off the road for just a few seconds, but that’s enough to cause a crash.
- Fumbling for cigarettes or lighter in a jacket, shirt or trouser pocket means one less hand on the steering wheel – which again, could lead to erratic driving or swerving into the path of other cars.
- And of course, smoking while driving is putting your passengers at risk too! All that passive smoke is a major hazard, particularly for children.
Just some of the main reasons smoking and driving don’t mix. In fact, campaigners frequently draw parallels with using a mobile phone while driving – if that’s been banned, why not smoking? On reflection that does make sense because anything that diverts your concentration from the act of driving is simply too much of a risk. For now though, civil liberty campaigners are winning the day.
But while smoking while driving may not be officially against the law yet, with mounting pressure, we may well see developments in statute over the next few years. Only time will tell. Until it happens, the advice for all smokers has to be:
If you’re behind the wheel of a car, your cigarettes should be out of reach.
Simon Koop works in injury law and has seen many Fatal Accident Compensation claims that involved people smoking. Please not do it.