Driving can be stressful, and some drivers like to light up a cigarette and smoke it while behind the wheel to keep themselves calm. Whether or not this activity is illegal in the United States, including Iowa, depends on what the driver is smoking and if it is affecting their ability to drive safely.
The personal injury attorneys at Tom Fowler Law have over four decades of combined experience protecting the rights of injured victims and fighting for the compensation they deserve. They can help assist with other questions like is it legal to drive with a cracked windshield in Iowa?
Those who have suffered injuries due to another's negligence in Des Moines, Iowa, should contact the experienced team at Tom Fowler Law to discuss their case and learn more about their legal options.
Is It Illegal to Smoke and Drive in Iowa?
There is no statute that prevents drivers from smoking cigarettes while behind the wheel. In fact, smoking a cigar or a vape pen and driving is also legal.
However, it's essential to understand that under the personal injury law in Iowa, drivers must exercise caution while driving and follow all of the traffic rules.
If smoking cigarettes is affecting a driver's ability to drive safely, they may be responsible for any accidents caused.
Can Smoking Cigarettes While Driving Increase the Risk of Accidents?
Smoking while driving a motor vehicle can result in reckless or distracted driving.
Inhaling nicotine can give the driver a buzz or cause a distraction, which can lead to serious accidents. Even lighting a cigarette could lead to swerving, increasing the risk of a fatal crash.
Can Law Enforcement Officers Stop a Driver for Smoking While Driving in Iowa?
Under Iowa's distracted driving law, a police officer has the right to stop any driver texting, using portable electronic devices, or smoking cigarettes if it affects their ability to drive safely.
Depending on the situation, the consequences may include fines and license suspension, among other punishments.
Law enforcement officers may accuse the driver of windshield obstruction if the smoke from the cigarette, cigar, or vape prevents them from seeing the road clearly.
When Is It Illegal to Smoke Cigarettes in a Car?
Smoking while driving is not illegal in Iowa, but under certain circumstances, the driver could end up in trouble. These may include the following:
Smoking a cigarette with a minor in the car
Throwing the cigarette butt out of the car's window (offense: littering from a vehicle)
Distracted driving while smoking or lighting a cigarette
Windshield obstruction due to the smoke from the cigarette, cigar, or vape pen
Is It Illegal to Smoke Weed While Driving in Iowa?
Although smoking weed is legal in many states across the country, recreational marijuana use is illegal in Iowa. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, driving while under the influence of drugs is illegal and extremely dangerous.
Smoking weed can lead to impaired driving. Studies have shown that marijuana use can adversely affect a person's reflexes and their ability to make decisions.
Under DUI laws in Iowa, it is also illegal for a passenger to smoke marijuana. Even if the secondhand smoke does not impair the driver's ability to drive safely (contact high), using weed inside a moving car falls under public drug use, which is completely banned in the state.
In some states like Colorado, California, and Washington, smoking marijuana for recreational purposes is legal. However, even in these states, it is illegal to smoke while driving.
Is Driving While Smoking Marijuana Dangerous than Driving While under the Influence of Alcohol?
A drunk driver is more dangerous than a stoned driver, as there are more fatal crashes associated with drunk driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 37 people die every day in the United States. In 2021, 13,384 people died in drunk driving accidents in the country, a staggering 14% increase since 2020.
Although it's less risky to drive stoned than drunk, it is still against the law and can lead to severe repercussions for the driver.
Operating a vehicle under the influence of weed can affect the skills that are necessary for safe driving, which is why it's best to call a taxi or an Uber to avoid the risk of an accident.
What Are the Consequences of Smoking While Driving in Iowa?
The consequences of smoking while driving depend on the facts surrounding the case. When a police officer stops a driver who is smoking a cigarette, they may issue a citation.
If a driver gets distracted while lighting or smoking a cigarette and causes a fatal accident, they may face a felony conviction. Punishments for such an offense include up to 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or a combination of both.
The penalties for smoking marijuana while driving in Iowa are the same as driving under the influence of alcohol. Here are the possible punishments for a stoned driver in the state according to the offense committed:
First offense (misdemeanor): Up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, one-year driver's license suspension, and substance abuse evaluation.
Second offense (aggravated misdemeanor): Up to two years in jail, a maximum fine of $6,250, one-year driver's license revocation, and substance abuse evaluation.
Third offense (felony): Up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $9,375, driver's license revocation for six years, and substance abuse evaluation.
Marijuana DUI laws vary from one state to another. A misdemeanor offense in Los Angeles can result in up to six months in prison, while the punishment for the same crime in Iowa is a year's sentence in jail.
It's crucial for the accused to reach out to a reputable criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling DUI cases. They can assess the facts surrounding the case and protect the defendant's rights.
In most criminal defense cases, the attorneys may question the authenticity of the chemical test, the officer's accusations, and whether or not the law enforcement officers followed the right protocols.
Can the Injured Victims Recover Compensation for a Smoking-related Accident in Iowa?
Those who smoke while driving may want to know whether they can pursue compensatory damages in the event of a smoking-related accident. It all depends on the circumstances of the case and the state laws.
If a driver with a smoking habit causes an accident, the injured victim may be able to pursue a personal injury case to obtain compensation. However, they must provide evidence of the at-fault driver's distracted driving.
A driver who smokes may also be able to recover compensation in Iowa if they get into an accident caused by another's negligence. Under the state's modified comparative negligence rule, a party may be able to pursue damages even if they're partially responsible (less than 51% fault) for their injuries.
However, the insurance company may blame the injured victim for smoking a cigarette while behind the wheel. In such situations, it's best for the affected party to reach out to a car accident lawyer in Des Moines for legal representation.
Get the Best Legal Representation in Iowa with Tom Fowler Law!
Those who have suffered injuries in an accident due to distracted driving or smoking marijuana in Des Moines, Iowa, should call to schedule a free consultation with the personal injury attorneys at Tom Fowler Law. They can assess their case, gather the necessary evidence, and negotiate a fair settlement.