Morgan Pritchett
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Is It Dangerous to Drive While Sick?

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driving while sick drowsy impaired
Should you be driving when you’re sick?
Photo: Open Grid Scheduler/Grid Engine via CC

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal and dangerous. According to the NHTSA, there were 10,511 deaths in 2018 due to drunk driving accidents. Drowsy driving isn’t necessarily illegal, but it’s still defined as risky driving by the NHTSA. But what about when you’ve got a cough and your nose is a little runny? Is it dangerous to drive while sick?

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In 2012, British insurance company Young Marmalade and Cardiff University in Wales conducted a study to test drivers with cold symptoms to see if their skills were affected at all. The results noted that the abilities of those who drove while sick dropped by 50 percent. The areas that were most affected included concentration and reaction time, which could both be deadly while operating a two-ton vehicle.

However, because the full study was never released to the public, there were some skeptics as to its validity. The lack of information regarding age, gender, driving experience, and level or type of sickness made it difficult to discuss the findings entirely. Dr. Christpher Ohl from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine spoke to ABC News with a common-sense approach: “Everyone knows that when they have a fever and flu symptoms they are not at their best physically or mentally. One needs to understand there is a wide range of mental impairment from illness, and more minor ailments are really not much of a problem if symptoms are controlled with non-narcotic medications.”

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While there aren’t any official statistics on the correlation between driving with a cold and accidents, you can assume that reaching for a tissue, blowing or wiping your nose, or fiddling with anything due to your sickness can be categorized as distracted driving. According to The Zebra, 8.5 percent of fatal automotive accidents were a result of distracted driving, so you should keep that in mind the next time you get behind the wheel while sniffling.