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Todd Dills

Driving while smoking: the cutting edge of in-cab distractions

| October 13, 2009

Not only did one truck driver in Ontario this weekend likely enter the history books as the first hauler ticketed for smoking in his cab in contravention of a provincial piece of legislation-turned-law called the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, he may well stand at the vanguard of the recent hyper-attention to in-cab distractions provided by the profusion of communications gadgetry.

Driving while smoking might well qualify as the next driving while texting.

As the Canadian newspaper of record the Globe and Mail reported, a 48-year-old London, Ontario-based hauler was slapped with a $305 fine after a police officer noticed him smoking as he pulled alongside the truck on the 401 near Toronto. In that story, in which a rep from the Ontario Trucking Association parsed the many exceptions to the no-smoking-in-workplaces (including vehicles) rule (which excludes from compliance drivers who actually own their own rigs and are sole proprietors of their trucking businesses), an Essex County police rep stated as a primary smoking danger not just the fact that it’s cancer-causing, is often likened to slow suicide, confers upon its contemporary practitioners the status of virtual pariah in some locales and other such unfortunates, but that, like driving-while-texting (DWT, of course), is unsafe simply as one among many in-vehicle distractions.

“You’re taking a hand off your wheel to light your cigarette,” she told the Globe and Mail. “Then you’re looking down to put your cigarette out, so you’re not paying attention….” I imagine that sounds pretty familiar. Follow this link for the full story.

  • Little David

    While I had to follow the link you provided to clarify the exceptions to the law (if you own your own vehicle and are the only one who drives it, yes you can smoke in it) this exception makes it clear that the intent of the law is to protect none smokers from exposure to second hand smoke, and has nothing to do with distracted /br /Seems to me that the police official who thinks truckers should be cited because smoking while driving is a distraction is making up her own laws to enforce. Perhaps she also should give all drivers who drink coffee or soda pop while driving tickets under the same law. They have to take a hand off the wheel and their hand off the wheel to grab that cup of coffee and then once again when they put it back in the cup holder. It does not matter that there is no law specifically against it, she can use the smoking prohibition law since she is already using that one beyond its intent to battle distracted driving.

  • Todd Dills

    Well put, David. And we#39;ve all been living with smoking-while-driving as a distraction for years; in any case, after I posted this I came across a new quot;distracted driving indexquot; put together by an outfit called SmartDrive Systems, which listed smoking as the second most distracting distraction, behind mobile phone use. Perhaps the next thing to look for is a study computing the number of crashes caused by a driver fumbling with a lighter?

  • Little David

    I googled the SmartDrive Index. If you notice, one of the standards they have is for any activity that involves taking your hands off the wheel for more then 3 consecutive seconds is a distraction. It does not matter if you can light up a cigarette without taking your eyes off the road, because one of your hands is involved in something other than holding the steering wheel for more then three seconds it /br /Considering how many truckers smoke (far more then the average for the population as a whole) and considering how many times the average smoking truck driver will light up each and every day while driving I am surprised it did not score higher. br /br /I am also surprised the third highest (beverage) did not score higher as well. I know that just about every time I grab for that cup of coffee to take a sip or two, it is going to involve more then three seconds of one hand off the wheel, again, even if my eyes remain glued to the /br /I am skeptical of the index. SmartDrive has a service to sell, and they are motivated to come up with things that need to be improved on to sell their service.

  • Stace

    I think what drives me the nuttiest about this sort of thing is that from my experiences on the road, distractions from eating and smoking and drinking are the least of the /br /If they want to make our roads safer to drive on, then they should focus on education and forcing people to follow laws already in place. Enforce the speed limits, cite tailgaters, ticket people who don#39;t use their signals and weave in and out of traffic like /br /But no, that would take time and money, and put too much focus on the four-wheelers, so many of whom have absolutely dreadful driving habits, but who vote and keep the lawmakers in /br /So, rather than do what might actually make a difference but might be unpopular, they put the focus on something else. Too often it#39;s we truckers who take the hit. Typical. And it makes me tired, it#39;s so tedious and absurd.

  • Todd Dills

    Turns out this latest incidence of fining for smoking in-cab is not the first such. Here#39;s an interesting story from the Toronto Star about a hauler who saw a driver fined for smoking, then the charges dropped, back in 2006: quot;Truckers battled smoke law — and won,–truckers-battled-smoke-law-and-won strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.