Over the past few years, law enforcement officers have cracked down on texting while driving. It’s clear that using a cell phone while driving can be a dangerous distraction, but what about electronic cigarettes? This week, a New York man was punished when a police officer spotted him using an e-cig while driving. Jason Dewing was surprised to see blue lights behind him and pulled over, unsure what he had done wrong. It turns out his only mistake was puffing on an e-cig.
The police officer wrote out a traffic violation, which said Dewing was using a mobile phone device while driving. Before he had a chance to protest, the officer explained that e-cigs could technically be considered as “portable electronic devices” making them illegal while operating a motor vehicle. So where does the law stand on this issue? In New York, the law states that while driving, it is illegal to operate “hand-held mobile telephone, personal digital assistant, handheld device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband person communication device, two-way messaging device, electronic game, or portable computing device.”
Did Dewing break the law? The officer insisted that he was in violation because e-cigarettes are portable and electronically powered. After receiving the ticket, news quickly spread and vapers have been outraged by the allegation that vaping while driving is dangerous. After all, there is no law banning smoking while you drive. If you think about the distractions involved in smoking an analog cigarette, this poses a much greater threat than e-cigs.
When you smoke a regular cigarette, it requires you to fish around for the cigarette pack, take one out, and then find a lighter. You have to actually light the cigarette, and then keep it in one hand at all times to avoid cigarette burns on the car. A lit cigarette produces ash, so the smoker has to either flick these ashes out the window or into an ash tray.
When the cigarette is finished, the smokers has to put it out and in most cases, that means the smoker tosses it out of the window, creating fire hazards and putting the driver behind him at risk. On the other hand, e-cigarettes require no lighter and they automatically work by pressing a button or simply inhaling. There is no ash and when the vaper is done, the e-cig can simply sit in the seat beside him. At no point in the process is the e-cig user distracted or endangering other drivers.
So was it fair for Dewing to receive a traffic citation for using his e-cig? Ultimately, the court will have to decide. What do you think… is vaping behind the wheel dangerous or was this cop out of line?