|You are in: Road Safety News: 21 May 2007
A hot topic
LARSOA hit the national news headlines last week with a call for the Government to consider a ban on smoking while driving.
The story appeared in most of the national newspapers including The Observer, the Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Express, Daily Mirror and The Star. It was also covered by BBC Breakfast News, Channel 4 News and numerous radio stations - and internationally by Reuters and the Press Association.
The smoking ban in enclosed public places and workplaces in England comes into force on 1 July but LARSOA is calling on the Government to investigate the introduction of a blanket ban on smoking while driving.
LARSOA says that ‘trying to light cigarettes and the dangerous practice of throwing them out of an open window into the path of the car, bicycle or motorbike behind is far too distracting and could easily lead to accidents’.
The campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) supported LARSOA’s view. Amanda Sandford said: “We fully support this proposal. Not so long ago it would have seemed inconceivable that we would have a total ban on smoking across the country, but in a few years time people will think it's inconceivable that we allow people to continue to smoke while driving.”
However, Andrew Lansley, the Conservative shadow health secretary, condemned the plan as a denial of citizens' rights. “Parliament hasn't accepted the completely anti-libertarian view that people can't do what they like in their own homes and own cars,” he said.
Simon Clark, of the pro-smoking organisation Forest, also opposed the proposal. “Is it really a danger? I would like to ask if there is evidence to say that smoking while driving can actually cause accidents,” he said. “Are you going to ban people from re-tuning the radio or changing a CD?”
LARSOA spokesperson David Frost said: “The issue has raised a healthy, sensible and reasoned debate on the responsibilities we all have as drivers to ourselves, our passengers and other road users.
“Distraction is a real issue that drivers face when they light up, deal with the ash (and the potential dropping of the cigarette while alight). The driver also takes their hand off the wheel for a considerable time during their smoke, in a similar way to those who use a hand-held mobile.
”The publicity has highlighted all in-car distractions and given us an opportunity to link the issue of driver tiredness and taking breaks while driving, so that smokers can properly enjoy their cigarette. We have members who are also smokers and are therefore not being anti-smoking – but we do have a duty to educate people on the dangers of smoking while driving.”