A Dangerous Distraction

Exploding e-cigarette causes semi driver to crash.

The Facts . . .

On Tuesday, Sgt. Stephen Wheeles of the Indiana State Police for the Versailles District reported a personal injury crash occurred on I-65 northbound near the 35.5 mile marker at the Jackson/Scott County.

The driver suffered burns to his face, and had lost a lot of blood due to cuts.

The culprit?

An electronic cigarette exploded in the driver’s face, injuring the driver and resulting in loss of control of the vehicle. The driver was taken to the hospital for treatment for his injuries.

An informal Survey of Smoking Policies

A number of companies follow a smoking policy like that of C.R. England . . .

It is the trainer’s choice on rules for smoking and chewing tobacco in the truck, such as no smoking or chewing, no smoking in the sleeper, opening the window, etc.

Other company policies say . . .

Smoking shall be permitted in designated areas only.


Distracted driving is an issue in the area of collision prevention. Distracted driving is the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity and distracted drivers are estimated to cause anywhere from 25% to 50% of collisions. Common distractions are the use of cell phones and electronic devices.

Other deadly distractions while driving include cokes, smokes, eating and engaging in conversations.

It is my contention that every motor carrier needs to have a crystal-clear driving policy covering all aspects of driving, including driving while distracted. Research shows distracted driving, like impaired driving, increases the risk of a crash. We may personally know, based on anecdotal experience, of drivers who crashed while pouring a cup of coffee, or choked on an almond or jelly bean, or while drinking a soda or a coke when driving. These incidents and crashes occur on a daily basis.

Several states already ban a person smoking in a vehicle with children present.(Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Louisiana)

Some cities  as Bangor, Maine; Rockland County, New York; Keyport, New Jersey; and West Long Branch, New York, also ban smoking in cars around children, as does the United Kingdom.

Smoking is prohibited on interstate passenger-carrying motor vehicles under §374.201. Passenger motor carriers need to announce to passengers that smoking is prohibited; and post and maintain international no-smoking symbols and legible no-smoking signs in all vehicles transporting passengers.

Some motor carriers are hesitant to enforce a smoking ban as the prevalence of current cigarette smoking by drivers is more than double the general population (51% vs. 19%). Smoking is considered a driver health risk factor like hypertension and obesity.

Forward-thinking motor carriers are establishing smoking cessation programs for their drivers. One excellent resource is Driving Healthy, co-sponsored by Travelers and Northland insurance companies, both leading underwriters of truck fleets.

Action Summary

Encourage drivers not to smoke while driving or to complete a smoking cessation program.

Develop a a crystal-clear driving policy covering all aspects of driving, including driving while distracted.

Formulate a policy on the use of electronic cigarettes or vaping while driving.

Thank you for reading this.

To learn more . . . Driving Healthy

Driving Blind