Should People Who Smoke While Driving be Penalized?

Smoking could well be the next distracted-driving battle in the United States. Recently, an Oregon man called the Hard Drive Traffic Complaints Hotline to express his strong opinion that smoking cigarettes while driving was just as dangerous as texting behind the wheel.

According to OregonLive.com article, the anonymous caller said that using a cell phone was already against the law and that people who were caught smoking while driving ought to be charged with the same crime as those using cell phones.

Our national car accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm feel that engaging in any distracting activity while driving is dangerous, and could lead to devastating auto accidents.

The man was responding to an article on OregonLive pertaining to a new DUI law for marijuana users in Washington. The new law, for the first time in the Northwest, fixed a lawful DUI impairment limit for THC, the psychoactive composite in marijuana. Although Washington voters passed a law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, it is now illegal for people with 5 nanograms per millimeter THC blood content to get behind the wheel.

California, Arkansas and some other U.S. states have already banned smoking cigarettes in private vehicles when children are present, mainly owing to health concerns. Prohibiting smoking in effort to prevent accidents is an entirely different fight, however.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) studied the negative outcomes of smoking while driving on road safety. They determined that on average, smoking while driving was even more distracting than using a cell phone while driving. While the average distraction time for cell phone use was just 10.6 seconds (or traveling 492 feet without eyes on the road), that for cigarette smoking was 12 seconds (or traveling 525 feet with eyes off the road).

Though there is limited research on the relation between smoking and traffic accidents, a 2007 study did find that smoking was responsible for 1 percent of distraction-associated collisions or approximately 12,780 collisions over a period of five years.

There is also the problem of littering, although an Oregon effort to make
butt-flicking a more severe Class B misdemeanor did not catch fire.

Smoking and driving does pose a risk to public safety, however, other threats, such as aggravated drivers and those operating vehicles without a license pose a much larger threat. CNN recently reported that the accused bus driver in a March 2011 accident in New York that claimed the lives of 15 passengers and injured 18 others was found not guilty of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter charges.

The 41-year-old accused was found guilty for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree. The judge pronounced an additional 30 days for the accused who served over 15 months in prison previous to the announcement. He will also have to pay a $500 fine.

The crash occurred while the bus was on its way from Connecticut to Manhattan. There were 32 passengers on board the vehicle at the time. After crossing a 10-foot shoulder, the vehicle hit a guardrail, slid 500 feet and crashed into two signposts that tore off almost the entire roof of the bus.

NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigators found that the accused was moving at a speed of 78 mph in a 50 mph zone when the accident occurred. In June of this year, they came to the conclusion that the accused hadn’t had enough sleep when he was driving and that the combination of drowsiness, poor oversight, fatigue and excessive speed caused the deadly crash.

Following the accident, the bus company was closed down. Subsequently, the NTSB kicked off an extensive investigation into the nation’s tour bus industry and its safety rules.

If you lost a loved one to an accident caused by negligent, rash, or drowsy driving or DUI, you deserve compensation for the adverse effects the crash had on your life. Contact a capable auto accident attorney for a free legal consultation to help you receive the maximum compensation.

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