Almost Half Of In-Car Smokers Will Ignore New Highway Code Rule

Although over 3 million UK motorists have had accidents, ‘near misses’ or lapses in concentration as a result of in-car smoking distractions, a staggering 45 per cent of motorists who smoke questioned in a study by esure car insurance will ignore the new rules set out in the revised Highway Code and continue to light-up behind the wheel.  In fact, 68 per cent admit they’ve not even read the existing Highway Code since passing their driving test.

According to the new Highway Code, smoking in the car is an action police may deem as ‘not allowing proper control of a car’.  Research by esure unveils a raft of potentially dangerous behaviours related to in-car smoking:

  • A massive 80 per cent of motorists admit to taking their hands off the wheel in order to light a cigarette
  • Despite travelling at high speeds, 75 per cent of motorists think smoking whilst driving on a motorway is acceptable and poses no risks
  • 46 per cent of people have accidentally dropped their cigarette in the car. Even more worryingly, over a quarter (26 per cent) have taken their eyes off the road in order to retrieve it
  • 45 per cent admit to disposing of their cigarette butt by throwing it out of the car, which is potentially dangerous if the cigarette is not properly extinguished
  • 88 per cent of smokers admit that they are more likely to light up in the car when they are feeling stressed
  • 47 per cent of people are pro-smoking in cars whilst 53 per cent are against it – showing how divided opinions are on this issue
  • 66 per cent of non-smokers would like to see an official in-car smoking ban introduced, compared to only 11 per cent of smokers
  • Over a quarter (26 per cent) of people who smoke in their car say they’ve been forced to because of the recent laws banning smoking in public places offering them little option.
  • Over a quarter (27 per cent) of people light up with children in the car, even though having a child passenger can be a major distraction in itself and therefore the safety of passengers in the car is also being put at risk

Men are the most defiant when it comes to in-car smoking: a massive 48 per cent said they would continue to light up in the comfort of their cars and chance possible police intervention, rather than follow the new rules.

Men are also most likely to take their hands off the wheel while driving to either light a cigarette (83 per cent compared to 73 per cent of women) or roll a cigarette (13 per cent, compared to only 2 per cent of women).

Motorists from Wales were the most against smoking in cars with 68 per cent showing their support for an official smoking ban. In contrast only 48 per cent of respondents in the South West were against a ban.

Those living in Wales (67 per cent) and East Anglia (38 per cent) were most likely to smoke with children in the car, whilst Londoners were shown to be some of the riskiest drivers when it comes to smoking habits: 100 per cent admit to taking their hands off the wheel to light a cigarette and 86 per cent think it’s OK to smoke while driving on the motorway.

Times when people are most likely to smoke while driving:-
  • On long journeys (92 per cent)
  • When stuck in traffic (90 per cent)
  • When feeling stressed (88 per cent)
  • In an old car (84 per cent)
  • On the way home from work (77 per cent)
  • On the way to work (76 per cent)
  • On the way to/from a party/club (70 per cent)
  • When feeling tired, to help them stay awake (56 per cent)
  • When driving to a new location and causing anxiety (53 per cent)

Mike Pickard, Head of Risk and Underwriting at esure, said: “The debate over in-car smoking has the nation polarised with arguments both for and against a ban. However, our study reveals a raft of behaviours that not only go against the new rulings, but could have dangerous consequences.

“At esure, driver safety is our top priority and so the risky habits carried out by some smokers are a cause for concern.  We advise drivers to always pay the road their full attention. Any activities that distract or cause a driver to lose concentration or take their hands off the wheel should be avoided.”

15 October 2007 Staff

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