With Washington State’s new distracted driving laws in full effect, many things you do while in the car can now be a fineable and insurance reportable offense. Smoking a cigarette, not an e-cigarette or vape pen, while driving is a highly distracting behavior and should be a primary offense but it is not. Smoking while driving is a secondary offense in Washington State. This means that if you must have committed another driving offense you can get a ticket for smoking while driving in addition.
You can get a ticket for a secondary offense called dangerously distracted driving if you are doing any activity not related to driving that in the officer’s view interferes with driving safely, which includes smoking a cigarette. If an officer sees you make an illegal lane change, drive in an erratic manner, speed, run a stop sign, cause a car accident, fail to yield to a pedestrian, run a red light, or commit any other traffic stop worthy offense, you can be ticketed for an additional penalty if you were smoking a cigarette and the officer believes this contributed to your distraction.
Smoking a cigarette while driving is a highly distracting behavior that causes dangers to those around them and those riding in the car with them. If a driver decides to start smoking during their drive, they must take one hand off the wheel and look around their car for the cigarette and lighter, they must physically look away from the road in front of them, and they must be very careful to light the cigarette on the steering wheel. Additionally, they will need to ash their cigarette either into the car’s cigarette tray or out of the window. The entire process of lighting and smoking a cigarette while driving is extremely dangerous.
The National Institutes of Health published a report examining the impact of smoking while driving and its consequences. The study found that on average, drivers who were smoking were even more distracted than people who used a cell phone. Cigarette smokers averaged 12.0 seconds of distraction (equitable to traveling 525 feet without looking at the road), while cell phone users averaged 10.6 seconds of distraction (traveling 492 feet).
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducted a 5-year study into the dangers of smoking while driving a truck and discovered that smoking was a source of distraction in about 1 percent of all distraction-related car accidents for truck drivers. This is also just the reported number of people that said that they were smoking. Many people probably didn’t say that they were smoking because they were embarrassed or ashamed.
The ticket price: An additional $99 is added to the other primary offense.