We all know that the urge to hit our vapes is particularly nagging when we’ve given up smoking. That urge can come at anytime of the day. But when is it particularly dangerous? When you’re behind the wheel of an automobile. Dangerous, probably. But it begs the question:
Is it illegal to Vape while driving?
The headlines and media reports have created a narrative that vaping in the car while driving is penalty under the law. The big news stories as of late, say that criminalizing vapers is now in effect. However, the law states something slightly different.
There is no new vaping law specifically directed at vaping while driving.
However, a vaper operating a vehicle is subject to the existing laws relating to careless driving. As cloud chasing may block the observation area, this action can be potentially dangerous in combination with driving. Be aware! This is what could get you a ticket.
This might sound like vaping 101 but, there has been one case of a driver charged for vaping while driving.
A New York driver has been issued a ticket for vaping and driving because he was using a portable electronic device while allegedly driving recklessly.
The Obstructed Windshield
There are laws in every state regarding the condition and visibility of vehicle windshields. The laws include safety standards for windshields and require things like working wipers. Make sure you aren’t holding the windshield together with duct tape either. Anything that could obstruct your view will land you on the side of the road with flashing red lights not far behind.
That makes sense. So when asking is it illegal to vape and drive keep in mind the safety aspect.
While no specific law dealing with electronic cigarette vapor exists, almost all states have language in the law relating to “obstruction.”
Essentially anything that can obstruct the view may be considered a violation. If a cop was to see you driving down the road surrounded by dense clouds of vapor, you’re gonna have a problem
In Wisconsin for instance, no items can be suspended between the driver and the windshield that could obscure vision.
It's not a far cry to think that dense vapor could fall under that guideline.
This law, regarding driver visibility through a windshield is broad too. There is some type of law restricting non-transparent material in every state. Many states have laws regarding “items” between the driver and the windshield. Vapor could potentially be deemed as a non-transparent material. Also, vapor could be argued to be an “item” that obscures vision in a court of law.
The level of obstruction is a judgment call for a law enforcement officer.
Cloud chasing in a vehicle to the extent that the view is obstructed could be cited as a violation according to windshield laws in almost every state. There are no reports of windshield laws being used to ticket vaping and driving, but the broad discretion given to law enforcement could potentially be used to ticket vaping and driving.
Vaping and Driving With Kids In The Car
In the United States, there are several states that have enacted laws that prohibit vaping and driving in cars with children. But for the record, regardless of where you live: don't do it.
In California for instance, it is illegal to smoke or vape in a vehicle with a minor. (The law originally was directed at smoking, however, the language that prohibits tobacco products from being used in certain areas applies to vapes as well.) The California State law distinctly includes electronic cigarettes in the category of tobacco products.
Now even federally, electronic cigarettes are regulated as tobacco products. So the same language applies.
If you are vaping and driving with a kid in the car, you can get a ticket and a fine. If it is prohibited by law to smoke in a vehicle with a minor inside the vehicle, do not vape. And this applies to most all activities with smoking and vaping. The two have been pigeonholed together.
All across the United States smoking bans most often include vaping. Likewise, laws that cover smoking in vehicles with children also include vapor products. Regardless of the law, common sense dictates that vapers should not vape with children in the car.
Careless or Reckless Driving and Vaping
Both of these are punishable by law. But just what do the laws say in regards to vaping? Let's break down both definitions and then apply them.
Careless driving is considered more serious that texting while driving and the fines can be much more severe. If the police notice a vaper trying to fill a vape tank, adjusting the settings on a mod, or cloud chasing to the point of an obscured view while driving, a careless driving charge might result.
Reckless driving — is driving with a wanton disregard for safety and the rules of the road.
Reckless driving is more severe than careless driving and carries stronger penalties. In fact, the penalties can include the loss of driving license, fines, and even jail time. Most often, reckless driving charges are filed for street racing and excessive speeding.
Basically, one would be intentionally driving recklessly, while careless driving is usually just driving without noticing.
Assessing Careless and Reckless Driving While Using E-cigs
Both reckless driving and careless driving have discretionary criteria that could potentially be applied to vaping and driving under extreme circumstances. Unless a vaper is driving at an excessive speed or doing something high risk, a reckless driving charge is unlikely but not impossible.
Vaping, or especially cloud chasing, while driving could be considered careless, so could many other activities. In some states consuming any beverage while driving could land you a ticket. Just how do they drink coffee before work?
Anyway, if you are vaping and driving with a kid in the car, you can get a ticket and a $100 fine. If it is prohibited by law to smoke in a vehicle with a minor inside the vehicle, do not vape.
United States smoking bans most often include vaping.
Vaping is just one of many potential activities that could draw the attention of the police. Once again, it is the broad discretion that law enforcement has that vapers need to be aware of.
For example, if a driver is swerving while fumbling with refilling a tank while behind the wheel, a police officer can make a case for careless driving, most definitely.
Drivers need to be responsible for full control of their vehicle when driving. There has been no reported rash of citations for vaping and driving in the United States, but any driver who vapes on the road needs to be sure to follow the rules of the road and drive safely!
The law in New York states that drivers can not operate a vehicle while operating any of the following:
Even a GPS
Note that none of the devices described above appear to pertain to an electronic cigarette. In the New York case, the officer stated that the ticket is valid because the driver was using a portable electronic device. And the judge in the case agreed. The texting and driving laws across the country may or may not be used to prosecute vaping and driving. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of clarity to govern vaping while driving.
Texting and Driving vs. Vaping and Driving
While the previous vaping and driving example where texting and driving laws were used to prosecute a vaper might sound misleading, there are many reports to the contrary. Vapers have reported being pulled over for using a mod while driving because police officers mistook a mod for a cell phone.
In those reports, the officers explained that they thought the vaping device was a cell phone and immediately let the drivers go once they recognized that it was a vaping device, not a mobile communication or computing device. However, it's likely that there are examples that go just the opposite too. Still, most states expressly connect texting and driving laws to portable communication and computer devices. There are no laws targeting vaping and driving.
In the New York case, a judge held that a vape could be qualified as a banned device based on the general descriptions outlines in the law.
In other cases, law enforcement has determined that a vape is not covered by texting and driving laws. This leaves the law to be interpreted in a variety of ways, so it is best to just forgo vaping and driving altogether.
The laws leave ample room for a wide interpretation. In fact, other driving infractions that could potentially be applied to vapers.
Do not cloud chase in a vehicle with closed windows. Make sure that vapor does not obscure the view of the road. Blow vapor out of an open window, especially when using a sub ohm mod. Ideally, vape only when the vehicle is stopped.
Never vape with kids in the car.
Pull over and get off the road if you need to adjust the power, swap batteries, refill a vape tank, or drip some juice on your coils. Don’t throw used coils or empty juice bottles out of the vehicle, that'll score you a littering ticket.
Be aware that following these vaping and driving guidelines is not a guarantee that you will never get a ticket. It is highly unlikely that you will get a ticket, but like the case in New York teaches there is a possibility that an aggressive officer could make a case that simply taking a vape while at the wheel qualifies as use of an electronic device.
Understand the wording of your local laws and you'll be better off.
Generally speaking, vaping responsibly and driving responsibly at the same time is probably fine. If a driver is clearly in full control of the vehicle, then it is improbable that there will be an issue. Make sure you are aware of the laws in your area and vape responsibly.
If you live internationally, this could be even more complex of a subject. One thing is for certain though. In one of the worlds most vape friendly countries, the United Kingdom, there are specific laws to prohibit vaping and driving.
The specific law that applies to all drivers is careless driving, also called driving without due care and attention.
As per a recent string of screaming headlines, the public is being informed that vaping and driving in the UK could lead to a £2,500 ( roughly USD 3,500) fine and a loss of license.
Careless driving is an offense that is committed when “the accused’s driving falls below the standard expected of a reasonable, prudent and competent driver in all the circumstances of the case.”
Police can make a judgment whether or not any specific activity causes the driver’s competence to dip below reasonable standards. Any penalties imposed will depend on aggravating factors.
Penalties For Careless Driving In The UK
Much like the charge itself, the penalties for careless driving are open to discretion. The court has a vast range of discretion when determining an appropriate penalty. It is possible that vaping while driving could lead to the maximum penalties but only if aggravating factors are present.
As an example, a first offense is very unlikely to draw a maximum penalty. The Sentencing Council for England and Wales has issued guidelines for penalties for careless driving.
Examples of aggravating factors:
Nature of incident, for example, the severity of any related accident/injuries
Contravening traffic signals
Offenses while the offender is on bail
An individual guilty of vaping and driving with a record of previous offenses will be subject to more severe penalties. Careless driving leading to injuries and damage will give the judge discretion to hand out the maximum penalties.
The maximum penalties for careless driving in the UK, including vaping and driving, are:
A £2,500 fine
Three to nine penalty points assessed
A discretionary revocation of license
If the court determines there are mitigating factors, the fines could be reduced. Also, there will be fewer penalty points assessed.
Penalties For Driving And Vaping
The penalties for vaping and driving are governed by the penalties for careless driving. Therefore, it cannot be stated that vaping while driving will lead to maximum fines and loss of license. Once again, there is no specific law targeting vapers.
If a vaper is doing some cloud chasing behind the wheel to the point of obscured vision, then a charge of careless driving would be warranted. Any subsequent penalty would be determined by sentencing guidelines.
Sergeant John Davis of the Surrey Police explains “Any person who is distracted in any way could be guilty of an offense. Whether that be smoking, vaping, or eating.”
Ultimately, the headlines of maximum fines and penalties for vaping and driving are misleading. Vapers need to operate a vehicle safely just as everyone else is required.
What The Police Say About Vaping And Driving
About driving while vaping Davis further explains “a scenario where someone could potentially be either distracted or have reduced visibility then there is potential for a crash, but it is certainly not something we have come across. Whereas mobile phone distraction is a regular distraction, we come across in fatal/serious collisions.”
The concerns that public safety officials have are related to all types of driving distractions. The laws discussed apply to all kinds of distractions. For example, Sergeant Davis mentioned visibility about vaping. That is a legitimate concern. But vapers should not feel specifically targeted.
If a driver is operating a vehicle with frosted windows that obviously impair visibility, then it is driving without due care and attention.
The roads are covered in snow and ice, drivers aren't clearing ALL the snow and frost from their cars (windscreen, windows, roof, mirrors, and lights), and people are driving too fast.
Cloud chasing while driving can be considered an offense. A vaper who is attempting to make liquid refill while driving would be subject to the same laws and penalties as someone who is texting while driving. Police and the courts will approach vaping and driving with the same common sense safety standards that are applied to all driving distractions including smoking, texting, fiddling with a coffee cup, and the list goes on.
The headlines about the law targeting vaping and driving are misleading. There may very well be new UK vaping laws forthcoming, and it is important for the vaping community to stay on top of new developments. Vapers should keep in mind basic laws and look for “no vaping” sign to avoid problems.
Vaping and Driving Guidelines
In the United Kingdom, the guidelines stipulate that anytime an individual is operating a motor vehicle, that privilege comes with responsibility. Vapers are subject to those responsibilities, so says the Sussex police department.
Although vaping is different than smoking a tobacco product, one wouldn't sit in a car filled with smoke. So let the windows down and let the vapor out if someone in the vehicle is using a vaping device.
The above advice is sound and an excellent starting point. Here are the guidelines we've compiled for the world traveler that needs to know about vaping and driving guidelines:
Do not cloud chase in a car with closed windows
Open windows and blow vapor outside so it does not linger in your vehicle and obscure vision
Never drip e-liquid onto your coils while operating a vehicle or as a passenger: you're likely to make a mess.
Do not attempt to change mod settings or fill a vape tank while driving
Each of these guidelines is common sense and ensure that individuals are focussed on their driving. Avoid being charged with careless driving and most importantly, drive safe and avoid accidents. Vape responsibly.
Don't vape and drive, in the event that you're prosecuted, it won't be worth it. Just like texting and driving. In the UK it is possible to even lose your license. Police may decide the act is potentially dangerous, and drivers could be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention. Penalties for the charge include a ban from the roads, points on license, or a fine of up to £2,500.
Hopefully, this article has helped clear up the red tape involved with the laws regarding vaping and driving. Always understand the laws regarding vaping in your local area though. We could write books and books on what every county in the united states says about vaping, and even more about the cities and townships of the UK, but it is your responsibility to know.
Practicing proper vaping etiquette is a proper way to support the vaping community and prevent people from gaining an unfair perspective on vaping. All vapers should hope that this technology can lend itself to smoking cessation for all. The devices we rely on can be taken for granted so make sure that you're not vaping in tobacco-free zones or around adults that don't vape or children. Always ask for permission to vape if you're in someone's home or personal space.
Please check out the rest of our blog, and comment with your vaping and driving regulations from your area. Knowledge is power!