It is cold season and with all of these people walking around the streets or sitting at their desks sneezing and coughing and downing shots of Dayquil like it’s Jagermeister at a frat party, it’s no wonder that they may have some trouble getting home and sometimes get into auto accidents.

And if a person is sick and single, or at least left to fend for themselves at home while their spouse or significant other is at work, it seems that driving is required to get to the store in order to get some (any) relief…and ice cream. Walking long distances when you barely have the energy to lift your head seems overwhelming, but getting to the car is just as hard.

However, now science has stepped forward and proven that driving with a heavy cold can affect ability to the same extent as drinking more than four double whiskies. Wow, now that IS a frat party!

Driving With A Cold

Could the most dangerous people on the road potentially be totally sober, if not for the bacteria that’s trying it’s hardest to consume them? Safety experts suggest the answer could be “yes.”


British Insurance company Young Marmalade, which carried out the research jointly with UK car and bike accessory manufactuerer, Halfords, say that they have found a dramatic increase in poor driving when cold sufferers were subjected to scientific tests.

Researchers say that driver’s reaction times dropped sharply when they had severe cold symptoms, sudden braking became much more frequent and cornering became erratic as the test subjects were found to be less aware of what was around them.

The research team used what is called a “telematic” box, which records drivers’ speed, braking, and cornering, just like the little black box one might find on an airplane. After a thorough examination of the data, researchers found that a participant who had an “excellent” driving rating of 95% when healthy dropped to 60% when suffering from a cold.

Based on a common UK rating system, a person at 60% should expect to be involved in an accident and may be deemed uninsurable by normal insurance companies. It inspired Young Marmalade to issue a warning for motorists not to drive with heavy colds or flu.

“We would advise a commonsense approach. A heavy cold can impair a driver’s mood, concentration and judgment, if you don’t feel well don’t drive,” they said.

Cardiff University Common Cold Unit in South Wales has also come out with similar conclusions from research they conducted in 2011 involving cold and flu sufferers. They found that their subjects had poor reaction times and alertness, putting them at risk of being involved in an serious car accident.

Symptoms of Bad Driving

Though it is almost impossible to truly gauge statistically, insurance companies suspect sick drivers are responsible for thousands of accidents every year. Police warn that drivers getting behind the wheel while suffering a heavy cold could potentially be putting other drivers at risk and could be found to be driving under the influence (DUI) if they’ve been found to have consumed too much over the counter medicines with alcohol in them. However, they also warn that flus and colds can lead to dangerous, even reckless, behavior.

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

Symptoms that should make you reconsider driving:

    • Fever (100º F or greater) – Fevers can cause lightheadedness and confusion and have even been known to cause hallucinations if they are greater than 104º. Every flu is accompanied a temperature, but if it exceeds 100º do not operate a vehicle.
    • Headache – A mild headache and operating a vehicle can be fine, but a flu headache resembles that of a migraine. Light and sound are abrasive and painful causing the sufferer to close their eyes and beg for quiet and darkness. Flu headaches can cause blurred vision, excessive blinking, confusion, and severe shooting pain. You should not drive with those symptoms.
    • Muscle aches – These are irritating, but driving with them is not a potential cause of a car accident unless pain medication is taken (see below).
    • Chills – This is a sign of a fever and should prompt the sufferer to stay in bed.
    • Extreme tiredness – This is a very bad symptom to be driving on. Drowsy driving causes thousands of car accidents and thousands of deaths and injuries every year as tired drivers drift into oncoming lanes and off of roads.
    • Coughing or Sneezing – A hacking cough or excessive sneezing can cause the driver to take their hand temporarily off of the wheel and may cause them to close their eyes. This can be a problem when accidents can happen in a split second.
    • Runny nose – This symptom is just irritating and gross, but doesn’t really contribute to accidents. But driving with one hand while the other is occupied with a tissue only adds to the over dangerousness of driving with a cold.

Seattle Car Accident Attorney

Washington law is very specific about its reckless driving laws, including such things as tailgating, speeding, and driving erratically. Though it may be found that sick drivers are not under the influence of cough syrup or other cold and flu drugs, if they get into a car accident they could potentially be found negligent reckless driving by driving erratically.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident in the state of Washington, you need an experienced representative to assure you receive the best settlement. Call the Seattle car accident attorneys at Phillips Law Firm for a free consultation.