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Drivers could face smoking at wheel ban

London Telegraph | May 14, 2007 
Amy Iggulden

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Motorists could be banned from smoking at the wheel under proposals to be submitted to the Government.

Senior road safety campaigners will ask the Department for Transport to consider outlawing cigarettes while driving in an attempt to cut the number of accidents.

The move comes seven weeks before a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places in England begins on July 1.

Health and safety campaigners welcomed the idea, but critics called it "absurd".

India has such a ban and it has been suggested in Germany, Australia and America.

Ministers said they will seriously consider proposals from the Local Authority Road Safety Officers' Association (Larsoa) but ruled out any immediate legislation.

The association, which represents the councils responsible for most of Britain's roads, will meet officials within weeks to seek a nationwide ban.

It says drivers are in danger when they take their hands off the wheel to smoke. There are also fears that more people will start to smoke in their cars after the July 1 ban.

Simon Ettinghausen, of Larsoa, said: "It is the obvious next step. Proper research needs to be done but there is a lot of support and it should be on the Government's agenda.

"Smoking does not just mean taking your hands off the wheel to smoke, it means finding the cigarette, lighting it and getting rid of it afterwards. It is playing with fire."

The Department of Health said it wanted to add momentum to its stop-smoking campaign and would consider seriously all plans submitted.

Smoking has recently been listed as a distraction in the Highway Code and mobile phone use has been banned at the wheel since 2003.

Critics of the proposal said it was an affront to personal choice. The Government said yesterday it had no plans to ban smoking at the wheel.

An advertising campaign begins today to remind people where the ban will apply on July 1.

Individuals and managers of premises breaching the ban face a fixed penalty notice of £50 or £200 fines if they refuse to comply.

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