Smoking ban while driving “not road safety” and wouldn’t be enforced, says cop head

Independent Janet Woollard, MLA for Alfred Cover, is introducing a new law to ban cigarette smoking while driving in a car with children in WA (among various other public-smoking limits).

Before the Bill has been considered by Parliament, the Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan has declared that his officers will enforce no such thing.

WA Today reports

“The bottom line is that we don’t have the resources to do it, and it would not be a high priority for us and we would probably not even issue the infringement books.

“And I don’t want to take responsibility for the prosecution. At the end of the day police in this state are responsible for crime generally and road safety.

“If you extend that into health you can extend police into all areas it is just not our core function.”

And yet, police enforce the no-cellphones rule. Since when is it safe to light, manipulate, and dispose of a cigarette while driving?

How exactly does underage drinking fit into this Commissioner’s schema? Is a 17-year-old banned from drinking because (s)he poses an immediate safety risk to others that an 18-year-old drinker does not?

And is it really the Police Commissioner’s job – an appointed position, not an elected one – to declare that the Force will refuse to enforce a law that hasn’t even passed yet?

Categories: health, law & order, Politics

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9 replies

  1. I always thought the job of police was law enforcement, whatever those laws happen to be.
    Kirsten’s last blog post..Muddled thoughts on privilege and prejudice.

  2. I dare say that the Police Commissioner wouldn’t have a job for too much longer if he were to instruct the Police Officers to ignore ignore a new law…
    Rowan’s last blog post..Andrew Bolt

  3. This is a tricky one for me. On the one hand, I grew up with one parent who smoked (and drove, and did both simultaneously on occasion) and one who didn’t. It’s made me aware of the various places where smokers *aren’t* allowed to be over the years, purely because I have to be aware of it for family reasons. If this law actually got passed, I can see a lot of people who smoke getting very annoyed and upset about it, particularly since a car is by and large a pretty private space. Yes, okay, smoking in the car when kids are riding with you is probably a Bad Thing; but then again, the same argument could be made for smoking in the same house as children. So, do we get the Child Welfare people out after all the parents who smoke?
    On the other hand, I can see it as a public health and safety issue. Driving is a tricky business, and it needs all your attention. I’m on medication which slows my reaction times slightly (I compensate by being hyper-paranoid when I drive) and the next time my licence gets renewed, I’ll probably have it noted on there. Any distraction while driving is a Bad Thing, and cigarettes definitely fit that category. As do children – so why not ban driving with children in the car as well?
    Then on the third hand, I have to wonder about the enforceability of the law in the first place. A lot of the laws about driver safety really appear to be honoured more in the breach than the observance, since they’re damn near impossible to enforce on a regular basis. Speed laws are a good example – nobody tries to pretend the laws about speed limits are enforced. The lists of speed camera locations are a good indication that they aren’t. I’m also willing to bet the cops don’t catch everyone who uses a mobile phone while they’re driving. I suspect Commissioner O’Callaghan’s concern is mainly with the limits of what’s humanly possible for his officers to achieve, and how to meet the performance indicators the government has no doubt set for the police force.
    Meg Thornton’s last blog post..So I should be going "baaaa" about now

  4. I’d expect these laws would only come into effect if someone caused an accident while trying to light a cigarette, or trying retrieve a dropped one. The Police Commissioner should have held his tongue though. There are ways and means of communicating with politicians, and this isn’t the best way.

  5. “If this law actually got passed, I can see a lot of people who smoke getting very annoyed and upset about it, particularly since a car is by and large a pretty private space. ”
    I would have thought that the right of children to breathe clean air that’s not going to make them sick trumps the “right” of smokers to pollute the atmosphere in a “private space”, personally.
    Reducing the risk of those kids getting asthma, various forms of childhood cancer, etc, is worth a few smokers being “annoyed and upset”. And frankly, smoking around their kids is a selfish and disgusting thing to do.

  6. I support this proposed bill on public health grounds, despite the Commissioner’s misgivings about difficulties enforcing the resultant legislation. I’m pretty certain that Tasmania introduced similar laws recently, so that state might provide useful insight into how well the laws are being policed.

  7. The hardest thing about smoking and driving is rolling a fag, which is not as difficult as you might imagine, whilst simultaneously holding the wheel, (yes with both hands). But its the bringing your head close enough to the wheel and your hands to lick the paper that seems for a reason I can’t really quite work out, to be the most hazardous part. I’m not sure why this is so awkward I’ve thought about it and no doubt practise is making me much better at it.
    Not smoking while I drive is an option I often take up too. And I never let children in my car, that would be simply asking for trouble.
    Caroline’s last blog post..Tired? Pissed off? Running out of time? Thinking about sleep all the time? Its daylight savings and its fucking with your mind.

  8. I am a South Australian and we had this law passed not that long ago. I am also a foster carer and I’m afraid I had to dob in my foster son’s family for infringing this very law; every time he came back from access he absolutely REEKED of cigarette smoke, not just on his person but his bag and its contents. Families SA was so concerned about it they spoke with the family and there hasn’t been a problem since, so I gather it happened in the first place due to ignorance rather than selfishness or a lack of concern for his health and welfare.
    But then again, he is in foster care, so maybe ignorance is just as dangerous a thing as deliberate neglect…

  9. Meg:

    Any distraction while driving is a Bad Thing, and cigarettes definitely fit that category. As do children – so why not ban driving with children in the car as well?

    Children aren’t automatically a distraction – and I totally agree that if a driver is becoming distracted by a child, and especially if they need to use their hand(s) in some way, they should pull over.

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