While the prevalence of smoking cigarettes has certainly declined in recent years, it is still a widespread and popular activity that many people participate in. Some people who smoke choose to do so in their vehicle while they are operating it. While this isn’t always dangerous, especially if the driver keeps both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road, it can sometimes lead to distracted driving, which can have devastating and unintentional consequences.
In this article, we’ll explore if smoking and driving is illegal, the potential dangers of choosing to smoke a cigarette while driving a motor vehicle, and what to do if you’ve been injured in a car accident caused by a person who was smoking and driving.
Is Smoking While Driving Illegal?
Believe it or not, smoking a cigarette while driving is not an illegal activity and motorists who do so cannot be given a fine or pulled over for it. This holds true as long as the person is operating a private vehicle for private purposes and is driving in a safe way. If a person begins to drive in a distracted or hazardous way, they can be fined or taken to jail for reckless driving.
However, despite being legal, smoking a cigarette while driving is still one of the top distractions listed by the Highway Code that should be avoided while riding in a vehicle or driving a car. Other behaviors on this list include reading maps, tuning a radio or changing a CD, listening to loud music, eating or drinking, and arguing with passengers or other drivers.
One important fact that should be noted here is that as of January 1, 2020, only people ages 21 and older can legally purchase cigarettes, cigars, electronic cigarettes, vaping products, or any other tobacco product or product that contains nicotine. This means that if you are younger than 21 and smoking while driving, if you’re pulled over, you may be fined for smoking a cigarette while driving. According to Reuters, the first fine for a first-time offender who is smoking a cigarette and younger than 21 is $25. After being caught three times, the person is at risk of losing their driver’s license or having it suspended for a period of time.
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Dangers Of Smoking Cigarettes While Driving
There are several dangers that can present themselves as a result of smoking a cigarette and driving. This is especially true in cases when people are smoking cigarettes as well as acting in a careless or reckless way while operating a motor vehicle. The most common hazards that come as a result of smoking while driving include:
- Distracted or reckless driving
- Burns from cigarette butts falling while driving
- Inability to see the road when trying to light a cigarette
- Inability or unwillingness to use both hands to drive while holding a cigarette with one hand
- Potential fire hazards
- Cognitive distraction, or when the person’s mind is on other things besides driving
- Increased time of distraction (cigarette smokers have an average of 12 seconds of distraction, whereas those using their cellphones have an average of 10.6 seconds of distraction)
As you can see, the primary concern with smoking and driving is the distractibility of the driver. The longer the driver takes their eyes off the road, the more likely they are to cause an accident or other harmful situation.
Injuries Caused By A Driver Who Was Smoking While Driving
The injuries that can occur as a result of a driver who is smoking and driving and causes an accident will vary greatly depending on a number of factors. These factors include how fast the vehicles were moving at the time of the collision, the type of collision that occurs, whether passengers were wearing their seatbelts, and whether airbags were deployed during the accident.
Common types of injuries that can occur in an accident caused by a driver who was smoking a cigarette and driving include:
- Brain injuries
- Brain trauma
- Neck injuries
- Back injuries
- Broken bones
- Cuts and bruises
- Strains and sprains
- Blunt force trauma
Erie Insurance found that over the past two years, 65,000 people were killed in auto collisions, and one in 10 of those collisions were caused by a distracted driver.
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What To Do If You’ve Been In An Accident Caused By Someone Who Was Smoking While Driving
If you’ve been in a car accident caused by a person who was smoking a cigarette and driving and you believe that they were distracted when the collision occurred, you may be eligible for compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance. Examples of things you can be compensated for include any injuries and the medical bills and expenses that came as a result of these injuries, job loss or lost wages due to time off from work, loss of independence, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain and suffering costs, and loss of companionship.
There are several steps you should take immediately following the car accident. These steps include collecting the contact information of any witnesses as well as at the at-fault driving, calling the police and obtaining a copy of the police report, getting photographic evidence of the scene of the accident, the cars involved, and your injuries, and seeking medical attention. Then, you should contact an experienced accident attorney to help you get the compensation you need and deserve. Many insurance companies will use shady tactics to minimize the damage or the total payout cost, but an experienced personal injury attorney can ensure you don’t fall victim to these tactics.
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