Is it dangerous to drive when you are sick?

Sneezing, coughing and a sore throat may have you reaching for the nearest bottle of cold medicine and box of tissues. However, they may also be a sign that you should rethink reaching for your car keys.

A common cold or flu can negatively impact your driving ability and increase your chances of a serious car accident. How can a cold or flu put you and other Pennsylvania drivers in danger?

Factors that impact your driving ability

Sickness can negatively impact your driving ability in several ways:

  1. Taking your eyes off the road. Sneezing or coughing may force you to momentarily take your eyes off the road. It may seem like a minor distraction, but if you are driving on the highway your car may travel the entire length of a football field in only a few seconds. This is a long distance to be driving blindly.
  2. Increasing drowsiness. Sickness can quickly drain your energy and make it increasingly difficult to focus on road conditions. Cold medications, especially if you are taking several, can also lead to severe drowsiness, decrease your reaction time and your alertness. Drowsy driving is a known accident hazard and its effects have even been compared to those of drunk driving.
  3. Taking your hands off the wheel. Blowing your nose, reaching for medicine or covering your mouth while you cough can require you to take your hands off the wheel. This decreases your control over the car and ability to make key split-second adjustments.

Talk to your doctor about your medications

If you are sick, you need to take extra precautions to stay safe. Discuss all prescription and over the counter medications that you are taking with your doctor. Avoid driving if any of them cause drowsiness in isolation or when taken in combination.

Avoid driving if possible

The best way to avoid a serious motor vehicle accident is to avoid driving altogether. Ask your friends or family members to help you with necessary errands or to transport you to the doctor. Consider having groceries and other items delivered to your home instead of driving to the store. It may seem like an inconvenience, but your health, and the health of other Pennsylvania residents, needs to be your foremost concern.