New Research Reveals Drivers Suffering from Colds and the Flu Pose a Serious Accident Risk
Although most drivers understand that fall and winter weather can pose increased driving hazards that include decreased visibility and wet or icy roadways, they may completely overlook another common winter driving hazard – the winter cold or flu. It may be tempting to dismiss the idea that being sick with the flu or a cold constitutes a serious auto collision risk, but a recent study conducted in England by Halfords Autocenters revealed that approximately 2,500 crashes per week are caused by cold and flu suffers reaching for a tissue, blowing their nose and sneezing. This means that in the UK alone, 130,000 car crashes per year are caused by flu and cold symptoms.
While there has been no comparable study conducted in the U.S., there is no reason to assume that drivers who are under the weather are any less likely to be involved in a collision when sneezing in the U.S. While the actions that leads to these accidents generally constitute distracted driving conduct related to being ill, a sick driver cannot simply choose to wait until it is safe to sneeze in the same way one can put off reading or sending a text message. However, the danger from sneezing behind the wheel is reflected in the fact that the violent force of a sneeze can result in a driver traveling fifty feet while his or her eyes are closed according to the researchers.
The authors of the study indicate that their results provide another reason that sick workers should stay home rather than struggle to drive to work. When motorists disregard a severe cold or flu that is causing a driver to sneeze, the driver poses a serious hazard for everyone else that occupies the roadway. The researchers also suggest that drivers who insist on driving with a bad cold allow an extra four car lengths in following distance to compensate for the increased stopping distance associated with a sneeze or other illness-related distraction like blowing one's nose.
The dangers associated with sneezing are compounded by other symptoms like fatigue, sluggishness and loss of focus. When a motorist's skills are impaired by illness, the risks posed by other winter driving hazards like slippery roadways or fog impaired visibility are magnified. The situation may be further compounded if a driver is still feeling the effects of taking a medication to alleviate cold or flu symptoms and help with sleep during the night, or a medication is taken that morning to get through the work day.
When a driver causes a motor vehicle crash because the driver is struggling with illness, this does not absolve the driver of financial responsibility for causing the crash. If a reasonably prudent driver would have stayed home because he or she was too sick to drive, this may justify liability for operating a vehicle when a motorist is sick.
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