Don’t get distracted
If you’ve ever found yourself distracted by one of the following, the statistics and the potential penalties may surprise you:
Eating and drinking
Studies have found that eating and drinking behind the wheel affects the focus of 1.7% of drivers involved in accidents in the UK. This is even more than mobile phones, said to affect 1.5%. Fizzy drinks can be a huge disruption as they are prone to spill or spray out when opened. Greasy food can lead to reduced grip on the steering wheel. And takeaway coffee – especially without a lid – can be highly dangerous, if it is spilt while still hot.
Since July 2007 it has been illegal to smoke in a car that is used as a public workspace (paid or unpaid) in the UK. This includes taxis and applies to drivers and passengers. In Scotland, smoking in cars is completely banned as part of an update to the Scottish Highway Code in 2006, with a £60 fine if you do light up. If you are smoking and caught driving inappropriately in the UK you are now breaking the law. This in line with new ‘distraction’ rules in the Highway Code 2007. Reading maps, playing loud music, changing CDs, arguing with passengers, eating and drinking are also listed as distractions in the new book.
Driver’s reaction times can be slower when they are using a mobile. As reaction times slow, the risk of collision is higher and the severity of the collision could also increase. It is now illegal to drive a vehicle or ride a motorbike and use a handheld mobile phone or similar device (a pager or Blackberry for example) at the same time. Hands-free devices are also considered a distraction and you can be prosecuted for not having proper control while using one. You can receive three points on your licence and a £60 fine for breaking the law. If the case goes to court you could face discretionary disqualification or up to £2,500 fine.*