Smoking while driving
September 28, 2007 1:00 PM   Subscribe

The UK Highway Code for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians has just been updated and expanded by 50%. New advice and recommendations include: 'Never show off or try to compete with other drivers, particularly if they are driving badly' and 'Smoking while driving is now classed as a 'distraction.'
posted by Lanark (22 comments total)
If you've ever been with somebody who dropped a lit cig in his lap while driving- yes, it's a distraction. Bravo to the UK for this.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:10 PM on September 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

particularly if they're driving badly?
posted by delmoi at 1:22 PM on September 28, 2007

Well I was prepared to get upset about this -- until I actually read the link and learned that smoking in vehicles is not outlawed -- but apparently can be cited as a factor if a driver is being reckless, negligent, gets in an accident, etc. Seems to me that it doesn't change anything -- if you drive poorly, you will get in trouble, no matter the cause or distraction.
posted by davidmsc at 1:25 PM on September 28, 2007

If you've ever been with somebody who dropped a hot cup of coffee, or a cup of cold lemonade, or a cell phone, or a taco, or a used condom in his lap while driving- yes, it's a distraction. Bravo to the UK for this.
posted by Sailormom at 1:39 PM on September 28, 2007 [4 favorites]

I've always said I'd support a ban on cell phone use while driving if it also banned reading, eating, drinking, and smoking while driving.
posted by rocket88 at 1:40 PM on September 28, 2007

Nobody should drink hot coffee while driving unless it's in a secured container (with a proper "travel lid," eg). But sailormom, the rest of those aren't going to burn the driver and require his/her attention to the burning stick. A cell phone? A taco? Who is going to bolt and kill people because a burning CELL PHONE falls in his lap?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:46 PM on September 28, 2007

I'm glad I passed my test before they did this. The code book was complicated and long before...
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:46 PM on September 28, 2007

I think these changes put cigarettes into the same category as food and drink i.e. you can smoke in the car but not drive at the same time:

# Last year, a removal lorry driver who ate a packet of crisps and steered with his elbows while negotiating a mini-roundabout was fined £250

# A nursery nurse was fined £60 last year for holding an apple in her hand while driving around a bend.

# In 2000, an accountant was fined £40 for drinking from a bottle of water at traffic lights and then driving off while still holding the bottle of water in her hand.
posted by Lanark at 1:54 PM on September 28, 2007

Boo. I have to take my test in 3 weeks AND buy a new highway code book.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:09 PM on September 28, 2007

The Highway code, the way us CofE types (Anglicans/Episcopalians) like it. Original is linked here.
posted by gdav at 2:13 PM on September 28, 2007

Fined? That's nothing. In the US, you can get tased for doing that sort of thing.
posted by demiurge at 2:15 PM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Some of those examples might be a bit silly. The point I was trying to make was that doing anything while driving can be a distraction. I've been in cars when the driver has dropped his cell phone and tried to pick it up without even slowing down.
posted by Sailormom at 2:23 PM on September 28, 2007

I have a coworker who is one of the reasons these laws exist. During a recent terrifying trip in the passenger seat, I observed this: While holding the cell phone in his left hand and undergoing an animated conversation, he repeatedly used his right hand to dip snuff. Leaving, you guessed it, no hands on the wheel at all. Didn't even bother to block the steering wheel with his knee. At seventy miles per hour. In fairly heavy traffic. In a Ford Explorer.

I've already told him that next time I'll just follow in my car. At least then when he hits the inevitable rock someone will be able to dial 911 for him.
posted by localroger at 3:42 PM on September 28, 2007

The point I was trying to make was that doing anything while driving can be a distraction.

Exactly what occurred to me as well. Except that you get from there to "Bravo, UK", while I get the idea that this implies that it's impractical to construct a complete list of things that might distract a driver, since it would include basically everything one might do other than driving, and therefore rather silly for the government to make the attempt. Why include drinking coffee, and not, for instance, manipulating prayer beads? This kind of stupidity is exactly what has resulted in the legal codes where I live, and I assume in Britain, becoming the hideously complex monstrosities they are today.

Well, that was my first reaction. On looking it up to see if it's really that bad, it reads more like general kindly advice, not meant as any kind of Definitive List of Official Distractions. But that's just if you take this section of the Highway Code as if it were an ordinary piece of writing, meaning what it says. According to the Department for Transport, that is the wrong approach: "We want people to know that it’s best to avoid any distractions while driving though – which now includes smoking.” As if it somehow didn't before now. At least the writing isn't so bad.

They ought to take two-thirds of that Code and put it instead in a drivers' instruction manual where it'd be reasonably safe from that kind of moronic misinterpretation which it is suggested that the legal system will quickly apply.
posted by sfenders at 3:43 PM on September 28, 2007

How do you convey a shrug effectively in language alone?
Feh, perhaps.

None of the additions on distractions would deal with any of the last 10 people who drove like complete morons within my sight. I am appalled at how much bad driving I see regularly, be it not indicating sufficiently (if I weren't cautious when people don't indicate...) or the jerkwad who drove across a center lane, with cars in it waiting to turn across him, also in front of oncoming traffic, to cross out... All in a Porsche Cayenne or similair. Ugh.

But still, I guess it's just as well none of these people are also distracted...
posted by opsin at 4:17 PM on September 28, 2007

I can't believe the difference between getting my UK driving license and my TN one in the States -- i drove for years in the States, but i'm on my third lesson here in the UK and am likely to need 5-6 more before i'm anywhere near ready for the test. Apparently everything I was doing back home was wrong and very dangerous.
posted by ukdanae at 5:56 PM on September 28, 2007

Regarding the dropping a lit cigarette in your lap thing, back when I smoked, I never had an issue with that, despite having dropped one once or twice.

There's a pretty simple solution to not being burned by smoldering objects.



Perhaps some idiots would care more about the possibility of damage to their pants than their life or the lives of others around them, but that simple expedient will prevent any burning sensations for several minutes, if necessary.

That's not to say it's not a minor distraction just to be smoking, but it ranks up there with having the radio on but not really listening to it. It certainly doesn't require having your hands away from the wheel any more than operating a manual transmission.

The hot coffee drop is much more distracting than the cigarette drop, as that stuff soaks through. ;)

If they're ticketing people for merely drinking (unless they're drinking alcohol and drunk!) or smoking (cigarettes, not intoxicating substances!) while driving, without any further evidence of distraction, that goes too far, IMO.
posted by wierdo at 6:29 PM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

aren't children a distraction while driving?
posted by brandz at 7:53 PM on September 28, 2007

All sensible advice really I suppose. I smoke and drive and droppping a lit zippo under the seat on the motorway's a pretty big distraction.

And if arguing with passengers isn't allowed then me and the mrs are in right trouble...
posted by ComfySofa at 1:24 AM on September 29, 2007

What I love is people who carelessly flick a cig out their window right into the face/lap/hands of motorcyclist riding behind them. Yes, I wear protective gear. That's not the point. Someone is throwing FIRE at you. That classifies as a distraction. Seriously does your car not come with an ashtray? Because then it must be unique among cars produced in the past 50 years.
posted by Eideteker at 6:13 AM on September 29, 2007

ashtrays are not standard equipment in automobiles anymore. ashtrays would be an upgrade, extra $$$, which is silly.
posted by brandz at 8:03 AM on September 29, 2007

Well, the 2006 nisan murano has no ashtray, so yay! unique car!
posted by Iax at 1:42 AM on October 1, 2007

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