It has recently been made clear that vapers using their devices while in a car could lead to a substantial fine.
This has caused some confusion and it’s perhaps worth examining the issue here.
At least one police force has noted that it reserves the right to stop and issue notices or penalties against drivers who are caught vaping as they drive.
Their logic, which is supported by some safe-driving organisations, is that the clouds of vapour in the vehicle may obstruct forward visibility and attempting to set the device up to begin with, might prove to be a physical distraction.
The legal position
At the time of writing, e-smoking in a car is not a specific offence under law as such. The police forces concerned are using the legislation provided under the “driving without due care and attention” category.
Just what drivers can and cannot do when behind the wheel of a car has been a subject of controversy for some years now.
For example, the dangers of making mobile telephone calls while driving are well known. The penalties are likewise significant for people who are caught doing so.
Unfortunately, some groups have commented that this appears to be incongruous when it is perfectly legal to engage in other things whilst driving. Examples might include tuning in the radio, changing disks in the entertainment system, using the SATNAV or rummaging around for and subsequently opening/eating sweets on a long journey.
It seems likely as if this crackdown on vapers e-smoking behind the wheel of a car will add more fuel to the debate as to why some things are considered to be safe whilst others are not. It also seems predictable that some groups may demand just where the evidence is, in terms accident statistics, that vaping is a major safety problem requiring a crackdown.
Whilst the debate will no doubt rage, it is clear that some police forces now consider vapers e-smoking to be dangerous behind the wheel. It might be relatively safe to anticipate that this will spread to other forces and perhaps become policy nationwide.
This also has a potential impact for car insurance.
That’s because most policies will contain a clause (or clauses) to the effect that the policyholder is required to comply with the law. Whilst at the moment e-smoking is not specifically against the law, driving without due care and attention most certainly is.
The conclusion arising from this is obviously that to be safe, drivers should perhaps abstain from using an e-smoking device while driving, wherever they happen to be in the country at the time. This is both to avoid a full and frank discussion with the local police perhaps followed up by a hefty fine, and to protect the full extent of your insurance cover.
In the meantime, it might be prudent for all drivers to keep an eye on this developing situation in the news.
Intuitively, it appears unlikely as if this important subject will continue to be left entirely in the hands of police opinion in one county versus another. It may well be that clarifying legislation is required on this and related issues – and sooner rather than later.