Driving whilst unfit

Driving with a heavy cold is nothing to sneeze at

22 February 2012

Driving with a heavy cold is nothing to sneeze at

Driving with a heavy cold is nothing to sneeze at

Almost one fifth of drivers take to the road whilst unfit, many due to flu or heavy colds, according to an AA/Populus poll of 20,000 AA members.

19% said they knew someone who had driven whilst unfit, with the highest reason likely to be due to suffering from a cold or flu.

Safe driving demands good reactions and concentration which can both be compromised when the driver is unfit.

Potential dangers

The dangers posed include driving blind for 70 yards when sneezing at 70mph – and possibly further if sneezing more than once.

Drivers also suffer from an inability to drive straight and suffer severe distraction.   These dangers can exist even while a driver is trying not to sneeze.

Meanwhile, cough and cold remedies, if not properly monitored, may also impair a person’s ability to drive safely

If a driver has a heavy cold or flu then their reaction times and concentration behind the wheel can be affected

Edmund King, AA president

Concentration

The other symptoms of a cold all tend to cut a driver’s concentration and awareness – headaches, runny noses, and irritation and pain around the face, nose and eyes. They can also greatly increase tiredness on long journeys.

Comment

Edmund King, AA president, said: “We often take our health and driving for granted.  If a driver has a heavy cold or flu then their reaction times and concentration behind the wheel can be affected.  People will still need to drive when they are unwell but they should be aware of the added dangers and adapt their driving accordingly."

Advice

If you drive with a cold you need to think about how you can handle a sneezing or coughing fit and adapt your speed accordingly.

Beware of the effects of medicine and ensure that you read the information on the label.  Some cold remedies are dangerous for drivers as they induce sleep or may even contain alcohol, or indeed make you drowsy, similar to being drunk and unsafe on the roads.

Sneezing fact file

Sneezing has been implicated in road accidents, and the penalties imposed on the drivers vary considerably.

  • A lorry driver was jailed for four years for causing death by dangerous driving.
  • A woman was cleared of careless driving after a collision that left one man injured. 
  • One American driver claimed that his injury accident was caused by his attempts not to sneeze, which forced him to all but close his eyes. 
  • Adults have between two and four colds a year.  
  • Children have more, as do adults who come into contact with children. 
  • Colds are caused by hundreds of different types of virus.
  • In the UK, people get more colds during the winter months although at present nobody really understands why.

(21 February 2012)