Police have warned drivers that vaping at the wheel could cost them their license.
Although vaping while driving is not illegal, it is up to the discretion of police officers to determine what they deem a potentially dangerous and distracting handheld electronic device.
Those determined to be distracted by e-cigarettes could be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention, the penalty of which can be a disqualification, three to nine points on your license, or a fine of up to £2,500.
Officers have said that vaping – which causes excessive amounts of smoke that could momentarily blind drivers – could result in fatal crashes.
The warning comes as latest figures reveal more than three million people in the UK now use e-cigarettes, with the majority of them driving.
Sergeant Carl Knapp, with the Sussex Road Policing Unit, said: ‘The smoke caused by vapes are a distraction and the consequences of them can be dire, all it takes is a moment to become distracted and potentially cause a crash and even worse, a fatality.
‘I strongly advise people to pay 100 percent attention to the roads when driving as anything that takes that attention away has the potential of severe consequences.’
Sgt Knapp, who has been with the force for 22 years, added: ‘There are no laws prohibiting vaping, however, you need to be in full and proper control of your vehicle at all times.
‘If you are going to vape I advise that you open your windows and blow the vapor directly out, just ensure that you are in full control of your vehicle before doing so.’
Sergeant John Davis, of Surrey Police, echoed this sentiment, adding: ‘Any person who is distracted in any way could be guilty of an offense – whether that be smoking, vaping or eating.
‘With regards a scenario where someone could potentially be either distracted or have reduced visibility then there is potential for a crash.’
Many drivers are aware of the dangers of sun glare when driving, which can partially impair the driver’s vision – in some cases causing crashes.
It has been suggested that vaping could cause a similar visual impairment, possibly resulting in similar incidents.
Brake, the road safety charity that works with communities and organizations across the UK to try and prevent road deaths and injuries, have also spoken out about the issue.
‘Driving is the most dangerous thing most of us do on a daily basis; it is a complex task, that requires your full attention to do so safely,’ a spokeswoman said.
‘Vaping while driving increases your risk of crashing, causing visual disruption and physical and mental distraction.
‘Attempting any type of activity that takes your eyes off the road increases your chances of causing a crash, and killing or seriously injuring someone.
‘Our roads are busy places, and we would urge drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel at all times.’
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, added: ‘Vaping while driving could easily impair a driver’s ability to drive safely, which could increase the chances of crashing.’
Road unit police said that although no new laws will be passed to directly relate to driving and vaping they will use the power they already have to make sure everyone is driving in line with the law.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said: ‘We believe that drivers should always follow the rules set out by the highway code and must always exercise proper control of their vehicle and avoid any distractions, including vaping.’
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