Towards the end of February, many papers picked up on comments made by road safety officers working for the Sussex and Surrey police forces. The officers, quite rightly, stated if people are using e-cigarettes while driving and become distracted from the road due to vaping they could be liable to a fine.
The newspapers took their typical approach and created headlines like these;
“Police warn vaping motorists could lose their licence and face prosecution if they use e-cigarette at the wheel”
“People caught vaping behind the wheel could lose their licence”
We thought we’d look into this story a bit more to provide a more balanced view.
Vaping While Driving – The Story Details
Ok, first things first let's look at the story in more detail and how it was reported.
Although the story was run by several major newspapers, they are virtually identical, so we can just pick out one to get an idea of the content and reporting tone used.
The Express went with the Headline “Smoking e-cigarette while driving can land you with a £2,500 fine and a driving ban”.
You can view the full article by clicking on the link below;
The article starts with three paragraphs that all say how police have warned motorists that vaping behind the wheel could lead to hefty punishments.
It suggests that the large plumes of smoke (yes they use the term smoke!) could cloud the vision of the driver even going as far to say it may cause temporary blindness.
The Express does say that vaping while driving isn’t illegal, but it also states “motorists could face prosecution for driving without due care and attention, as it has been deemed to be distracting.”
Police Quotes Used
It’s worth highlighting at this point that none of the papers are quoting an official police communication. The story appears to stem from comments made by the Sussex and Surrey Road Policing Unit.
We’re not suggesting that the comments made and advice given are any less important because of the source. However, would the story have got the same level of coverage if the same officers were talking about drivers being distracted when fiddling with their radios or changing a CD? Doing this behind the wheel is also ‘not illegal’, but surely if a driver's eyes are taken off the road for long enough, it’s no less dangerous.
The key police quotes used were;
Sergeant Carl Knapp of the Sussex Road Policing Unit said: "The smoke caused by vapes are a distraction and the consequences of them can be dire, all it takes is a moment to become distracted and potentially cause a crash and even worse, a fatality."
He added: "I strongly advise people to pay 100 percent attention to the roads when driving as anything that takes that attention away has the potential of severe consequences.”
"If you are going to vape I advise that you open your windows and blow the vapour directly out, just ensure that you are in full control of your vehicle before doing so."
Vaping and Driving – What the Law Says
There is no law against vaping while driving. The use of an electronic cigarette while behind the wheel is considered the same as smoking, eating, drinking, changing the radio station or CD. All these activities are fine providing they do not distract the driver.
The Department of transport provides clarity on the use of ecigs while behind the wheel: "We believe that drivers should always follow the rules set out by the highway code and must always exercise proper control of their vehicle and avoid any distractions, including vaping."
Vaping Safely While Driving
While it is perfectly legal to vape and drive you do need to take a common sense approach. We’ve compiled some simple tips that, if followed, should keep you motoring and vaping happily;
Avoid Foggy Driving
One of the key concerns raised by the road safety officers was around the vapour produced by ecigs. If you exhale in front of you then, for a few seconds, your vision could be impaired.
There are a few steps you can take to minimise this issue;
Aiming Vapour - This may sound obvious but exhaling out of the side of your mouth or through your nose directs the vapour away from your immediate field of vision.
Crack a Window (or two) - Opening your windows to allow vapour to exit the car is a must. If you can also direct your exhale towards an open window, you will avoid a dangerous build of vapour in the car.
Use PG Liquids - High VG liquids produce more vapour than high PG liquids. To avoid massive clouds when driving using an e-liquid with higher levels of PG can make a big difference.
If you regularly vape while driving you’ve probably noticed a build up of greasy film on your car windows. This occurs with all e-liquids but is worse with VG heavy juices.
The film can be dangerous as it leads to a fogging effect, especially noticeable on cold days. It can also heighten the brightness of the sun which can dazzle a driver.
To remove the film regular cleaning is required. White vinegar is very effective for cleaning glass and is also much cheaper than most glass cleaning sprays.
Common Sense Vaping
Keep Water Handy - Vaping can leave you feeling dehydrated and give you a dry mouth and throat. To avoid a nasty coughing fit while behind the wheel keep a bottle of water handy.
Watch Your Nicotine Intake - It’s not uncommon to consume a bit too much nicotine and experience slight dizziness. This doesn’t matter if you’re sat on your sofa at home watching telly, it’s another story if you're behind the wheel of a car. Try and stick to low (or zero) nicotine juices when driving and if you do feel dizzy pull over safely until the feeling has passed.
Keep your Kit Handy - A key point about being distracted when driving is taking your eyes off the road. Make sure that your device is within easy reach, so you're not fumbling around in the glove compartment when you fancy a vape.