While speeding, drunk driving and not wearing a seatbelt are the most commonly associated causes of fatal car accidents, what most overlook is the danger of smoking and driving.
Partly, we can blame popular media for this. The images of people cruising around with a cigarette in hand have looked endearing and charismatic on screen.
While it might look dashing, smoking while driving is a very unsafe practice.
In this post, we’ll shed light on the dangers of smoking and driving and why you should avoid doing it at all costs.
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Distraction and Impaired Concentration
Smoking usually doesn’t distract the drivers you’ve seen in movies, so it shouldn’t cause any hindrance while you’re driving, right?
Unfortunately, Hollywood movies are very inaccurate. The physical act of smoking often leads to diverting your eyes to make sure you don’t ash inside the car, or to deal with stray embers landing on your lap, or trying to butt it out, all while trying to keep your eyes on the road.
By diverting a driver’s hands away from the steering wheel and their eyes from the road, smoking contributes to a heightened risk of accidents as attention wavers between smoking and driving.
If a car suddenly swerved in front of a person who was lighting a cigarette, or was butting it out in the little ashtray, it would most likely end in disaster.
The act of lighting or butting out a cigarette is distracting enough to keep a smoker’s eyes off the road for a few seconds – seconds which are enough to cause long-term consequences after an accident.
Aside from being distracted, smoking inside a car creates haze, particularly on rainy days when only one window is cracked a little. Continuously smoking inside the car can irritate the eyes and cause them to produce tears.
A smoker’s cloudy vision while driving significantly increases the possibility of accidents and collisions.
Poor Driving Judgement
According to researchers, smokers are much more likely to have a major motor accident than their non-smoking counterparts.
A study has found that smokers are 1.5 times more likely to cause a collision due to the possibility that they feel the headrush after taking a hit, are distracted while smoking, or are suffering through major or minor smoking-related medical problems.
Having a lit cigarette near flammable materials is never a good idea – car upholstery is highly flammable, and an unextinguished or poorly disposed cigarette is enough to cause a fire.
Most newer vehicles no longer have dedicated ashtrays, and to dispose of the cigarette butt by throwing it outside is both hazardous to the environment, a leading bushfire risk, and there’s also a big risk of it ricocheting back into the car somewhere for a far more localised fire.
As mentioned, anyone who smokes while driving is physically risking themselves and other drivers in real time.
But smoking also has long-term health implications, including an increased risk of lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. These health risks are exacerbated by the confined space inside a vehicle, where the driver and passengers are exposed to higher concentrations of harmful cigarette smoke.
Nicotine, while a relatively harmless chemical, has certain effects on the brain that can impair concentration. Combined with the distraction caused by smoking while driving, it may affect the driver’s ability to maintain sustained focus on the road.
As a consequence, drivers who smoke may experience difficulty processing information, have slower reaction times, and an increased likelihood of missing critical cues on the road.
While not as critical as driving under the influence of alcohol, the seemingly harmless and daring effect of smoking while driving does cost lives – both of the smoker and people in other vehicles.
In most states in the country, driving while smoking is prohibited with minors in the vehicle. You can be penalised and fined for violating this rule. Most states use a demerit points system that has various fine categories in huge increments.
However, companions inside the vehicle can suffer serious health issues with continued cigarette smoking in the vehicle. If the driver or anyone keeps on smoking inside the vehicle, it’s highly likely they’re exposing their non-smoking passengers to dangerous secondhand smoke and serious health issues later on.
Smoking and driving is never a good combination. Drivers must always keep their eyes on the road at all times to respond accordingly and keep themselves and their passengers safe from accidents as well as the harms of cigarette smoke inside the vehicle.
If you’re bothered by withdrawal symptoms while driving as a smoker, you can discuss with your GP to learn about the best ways to alleviate withdrawals and keep continuing your smoking cessation journey.
Smokefree Clinic can also help you in various ways.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good.