According to Bernard Lawson, Acting Deputy Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, all officers in the Merseyside area are now "on the look-out for smoking motorists." And if any motorist is unfortunate enough to be caught red handed, so to speak, while lugging on a Lambert & Butler they will, says Lawson, be fined £60 on the spot and could well face prosecution for driving without due care and attention. Drivers found dragging on a Silk Cut will not be prosecuted, however, due to the fact that there is no actual nicotine present in these particular cigarettes.
OK, the Silk Cut reference – amazingly – is not contained within the new edition of The Highway Code, but the rest is pure fact. In the latest version of The Book the Department for Transport also recommends that motorists who change a CD while driving, eat, drink, and/or listen to loud music could also face prosecution because they "might not be in proper control of their vehicle and could therefore be a danger to other road users."
But what really bugs me about all this is why we feel the need to write these things down in the first place. Surely the whole thing comes under the banner of common sense. Where, for example, does it say in The Highway Code that driving up the wrong side of a motorway with no clothes on, blindfolded, at night is a) not an especially wise idea and b) likely to end in a 14-car pile up? Yet just because it DOESN’T say we shouldn’t drive like this doesn’t mean the M1 will be closed tonight because of a convoy of blindfolded naked drivers heading north on the southbound carriageway.
The same thing, surely, applies to eating while driving. Or smoking while driving. Or, heaven forbid, listening to music and driving. While smoking. And eating. With chopsticks.
Common sense tells us it’s not a good idea to do attempt of these things at the same time, just as it tells us not to yank the wheel sharp right and drive straight into the central reservation on our way home. We don’t need to be told not to, and then fined if we do.
And anyway, if you DO happen to get caught driving while changing a CD, drinking a cup of boiling hot tea and eating your evening meal – with chopsticks – then surely that deserves some sort of award for hand-eye coordination, not a £60 fine and three points on your licence.