WITH the smoking ban in enclosed public places and workplaces in England coming into force on Sunday (July 1), the Local Authority Road Safety Officers’ Association (LARSOA) says it is encouraged by recent polls supporting the idea of a complete ban on smoking while driving.
From the weekend it will be an offence to smoke in an enclosed public place - including passenger-carrying commercial vehicles and company cars - and LARSOA fears this may mean many more smokers lighting up in their private cars on their way to and from non-smoking destinations.
Government research figures show that, in 2005, a total of 50 fatal crashes involved a distraction inside the vehicle as a contributory factor. In-car distractions were recorded in a further 337 crashes in which someone was seriously injured and 2,538 where there was a lesser injury.
Recent calls on the Government from LARSOA to consider introducing a blanket ban on smoking while driving met with some controversy from pro-smokers and set off a fiery public debate, but polls by What Car? magazine and website ebay motors showed a majority in favour of introducing a ban.
A total of 70% of British people think smoking at the wheel is so dangerous it should be banned and is equally distracting as using a hand-held mobile phone while driving. A third of those surveyed by ebay admitted having driven carelessly when lighting and stubbing out cigarettes, flicking ash and trying to deal with lit butts blown back into the car after being thrown out the window, disregarding the safety of other road users.
David Frost, a LARSOA spokesman, said: ‘This issue has raised the debate on the responsibilities we have as drivers to ourselves, our passengers and other road users. Distraction in the vehicle can be deadly and smoking is quite literally playing with fire when you should be concentrating on driving. Throwing the butt out of the window shows a complete disregard for other road users, especially pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.’
Road traffic legislation already places responsibility on all drivers to have proper control of their vehicles. Any motorist who fails to do so, for whatever reason, such as smoking, or eating and drinking, is liable to prosecution.
The new edition of the Highway Code includes smoking in the list of potential distractions to be avoided when driving.
Frost added: ‘Lapses in concentration when driving can cost lives. We urge people to be responsible and not smoke and drive. Think about the human cost if you were to cause a collision.’ (LARSOA: June 25).