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Vaping while driving

   Vaping while driving

Plumes of vapour billowing out of car windows are becoming an increasingly common sight across the UK.

No, there hasn’t sudden surge in spontaneous combustion on British roads! Rather, the use of e-cigarettes and vapes has proliferated over the course of the 2010s.

In September 2019, the anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health conducted research which revealed that some 3.6million people in the UK are vaping. During the study, more than 12,000 people were polled and e-cigarettes were found to be most popular among 35- to 44-year-olds. As you might imagine there is some crossover between the vaping and driving public.

Legally, vaping while driving is a grey area because the activity is not outright banned in law. However, driving without due care and attention is an offence which carries a maximum fine of £2,500 and up to nine penalty points on your driving licence.  

Hypothetically, if a collision occurred and one of the drivers was vaping at the time of the incident, it could be argued that distraction caused by vaping contributed towards the crash and a possible prosecution could follow.

But why is vaping while driving a problem?

Any secondary activity such as eating, talking on a mobile phone or indeed vaping, which is undertaken while driving, is source of distraction and creates increased risk of being involved in a crash.

There have been a range of estimations about the number of incidents that are caused or contributed to by driver distraction. Road accident data suggests that in 2018, “distraction in vehicle” contributed to 2,647 incidents – three per cent of all of those reported on the road.

There are four types of driver distraction:
  • Visual distraction: Which occurs when a driver sees objects or events. This impairs the driver’s observations of the road environment
  • Cognitive distraction: When a driver is thinking about something not related to driving  
  • Biomechanical distraction: Occurs when a driver is doing something physical that is not related to driving
  • Auditory distraction: Caused when sounds prevent drivers from making the best of their hearing because their attention has been drawn to whatever caused the sound.
Arguably the act of vaping while driving could meet the conditions of three of these forms of distraction. By reaching for a vaping device and inhaling, a driver is both physically and mentally distracted.

Using a vape while driving could also cause a vision impairment due to the clouds of vapour often produced by the devices.

With this in mind, it may best to pull over or wait until the end of your journey before taking a puff.

Nick Lloyd

For more advice about how to avoid becoming distracted while driving take at our factsheet.

Head of road safety, RoSPA
Posted: 1/15/2020 2:37:32 PM 3 comments


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