Flu can be a serious driving hazard

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Those motorists suffering from a heavy cold or the flu suffer from a major loss of concentration when they are driving, thus putting both themselves and other motorists at risk, according to new research. Road safety experts have found a dramatic increase in the rates of poor driving when those with cold underwent scientific tests.

Their reaction times dropped significantly, and they braked suddenly much more frequently, and as the motorist was a lot less aware of the traffic surrounding them, their cornering was also more erratic.

The study also found that their overall driving ability dropped by over 50%, the approximate equivalent of downing more that 4 double whiskies. This is a level of ability to drive that insurance companies expect to lead to accidents. The research was carried out by the insurance company Young Marmalade, in association with Halfords, and used a black telematics box to record a driver’s braking, cornering and speed.

Nigel Lacy is the co-founder of Young Marmalade, and as said that although this is a trial on a small scale, it should act as a warning for motorists. He added that heavy colds also impaired the concentration, judgment and overall mood of drivers.

There aren’t official figures for accidents caused by sneezing, colds and flu symptoms but the insurance industry suspect motorists are responsible for a thousands of prangs when they are under the weather.

The findings back up work done by Cardiff University Common Cold Unit** which showed that those with colds and flu suffered from poor reaction times and alertness and were a third more likely to hit the roadside kerb.

Halfords Winter Driving Expert Mark Dolphin said: “We want our customers to stay safe. You shouldn’t drive if you are not feeling well. The best place to be when you have flu or a heavy cold is at home, but if you really must go out, get someone else to take you and avoid driving.

“Other drivers should be aware of those around them.”

Added to this Police warn that drivers getting behind the wheel while suffering from a heavy cold could be prosecuted.

PC Steve Rounds, of the Central Motorway Police Group said: “Sneezing can be very violent, especially with a severe cold and causes the sufferer to close their eyes temporarily.

“Commencing a journey in such a state would certainly be irresponsible and could be held as an aggravating factor in any accident that lead to a death or serious injury, turning a careless act into a dangerous one and thereby exposing the driver to a charge of causing death by dangerous driving.

Police also warn that some over the counter medications can cause drowsiness and hamper driving ability. If a person is rendered unfit to drive because they have taken medication, then they commit the same offence as if they had taken illegal drugs such as cocaine.

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