Safety experts concerned over vaping in cars

Insurance firms say they may write exclusions over vaping into policies

MOTORISTS who use electronic cigarettes are being urged not to “vape” behind the wheel over concerns it could lead to accidents.

Nick Lloyd, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’s (RoSPA) road safety chief, told leasing specialist AMT that vaping while driving is becoming a “growing and concerning trend” in the UK, as the vapour clouds might compromise the view of the road ahead and increase the chance of a collision.

“Distracted driving is a leading cause of road accidents in the UK,” he said. “Any secondary activity which takes eyes off the road is potentially dangerous. As well as being a physical distraction, vaping while behind the wheel can create visibility problems if clouds of vapour are produced.”

Use of an e-cigarette behind the wheel is not against the law. However, while drivers are not banned from smoking or vaping while driving, according to Lloyd they could be charged with driving without due care and attention if they are involved in a collision and were using an e-cigarette at the time, if the vapour limited visibility.

Drivers found guilty of this offence face receiving three to nine penalty points on their driving licence, lasting for four years from the date of the offence. Motorists can be disqualified from driving if they build up 12 or more penalty points within a period of three years. The penalty for new drivers is even harsher; they will have their licence revoked if they get six or more points within two years of passing their test.

AMT says the concerns over vaping were echoed by a spokesperson for the insurance broker Carbon, who suggested insurance companies are equally worried by the increased crash risk. The representative said brokers could eventually consider introducing measures to help minimise those factors, such as asking drivers to confirm whether they use e-cigarettes when applying for an insurance quote.

The spokesperson added that insurance firms could become increasingly tough on drivers who vape, suggesting they could have “exclusions [over vaping] written into some insurance policies in the future”. Should that end up being the case, motorists could face voiding their car insurance and losing their insurance payout if they have an accident in which distraction from vaping was a contributing factor.

While national road safety statistics don’t track how many road accidents are caused by drivers distracted by vaping clouds or cigarette smoke, research has suggested it could be a major factor in car crashes caused by distracted drivers in the UK. A 2012 study by Cranfield University indicated smoking was the second most frequently observed reason for driver distraction, ahead of mobile phone use and behind talking to a passenger in the car.

Driver distractions: the gadgets most likely to cause an accident