May 14, 2007 / 11:23 AM / 12 years ago

Government urged to ban drivers from smoking

A woman smokes a cigarette in London in a file photo. Some Bancroft family members want to meet Rupert Murdoch to discuss News Corp.'s $5 billion offer for Dow Jones & Co. Inc., the Financial Times newspaper reported on Monday. REUTERS/David Bebber

LONDON (Reuters) - The government should make it illegal for drivers to smoke behind the wheel, a group of road safety officials believes.

“Drivers shouldn’t be trying to smoke or eat when they’re behind the wheel, they should be concentrating on the task in hand and the road ahead,” said Simon Ettinghausen, a spokesman for the Local Authority Road Safety Officers’ Association (LARSOA), which represents councils across the U.K.

“Smoking can be particularly dangerous when lit cigarettes are thrown from open windows: they can hit the car behind causing that driver to get a shock, they can be dropped in the car itself or blown back in by the wind leading to the possibility of injury or fire,” he added.

“Driving is a complicated business especially with the high volume of traffic motorists have to contend with these days — it’s not an area where you can multi-task.”

Although it is illegal to use hand-held mobile phones while driving, there are no specific laws about smoking, eating or drinking, although motorists run the risk of being charged with not being in full control of their cars.

According to research carried out by Brunel University in 2006, eating and drinking while driving almost doubles the risk of a crash although three-quarters of motorists do so.

LARSOA chairman Malcolm Burns told Reuters the organisation had no evidence smoking was a contributory factor to road accidents and the organisation’s initiative has been criticised by the anti speed-camera group Safe Speed.

“I’m amazed LARSOA should propose such a thing,” said Safe Speed founder Paul Smith. “Smoking at the wheel isn’t a known cause of crashes — the risk is purely theoretical.

“One thing is for sure — while a police officer is giving you a ticket for smoking at the wheel, he’s not catching drunk drivers or stolen cars.”

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