Driving in the Cold Weather Presents a Whole Host of Precarious Situations

Icy roads and the notorious ‘black ice’ phenomenon have lead to fatal crashes year after year. Excessive rain, high winds and Mother Nature’s arsenal of winter weather weapons can wreak havoc on even the most experienced and cautious of drivers.

Sniffling and sneezing, fever, aches, pains and the general yuckiness of flu season just got yuckier for Sacramento drivers. A recent study conducted by a two British insurance companies showed that driving while sick can be as bad as driving while under the influence of alcohol.  

Drunk drivers, according to research, experience slow reaction times and have a generally more difficult time operating a vehicle smoothly. The study showed sick drivers experience much the same situations. Difficulty navigating curvy roads and sudden breaking are problems that both groups experience. 

Sick people experience a range of symptoms that can impair regular sensibilities. Similar to being drunk but without the euphoric feeling, sick people can find themselves light-headed, dizzy, feverish, with clouded vision and even piercing headaches. The simple act of reaching for a tissue can send a sick driver weaving into another lane. Excessive sneezing or coughing fits can be as dangerous as passing out behind the wheel. 

The researchers found that driving with a cold or the flu can be equal to shooting four double shots of whiskey. State troopers are not surprised. Washington State Patrolman Keith Leary has seen this situation many times and says drivers become more focused on how they are feeling and their developing or lingering symptoms than on the road and their driving. He feels it should serve as a warning to drivers to consider their health status before they jump in the car.

"You should be evaluating yourself," he said. "Can I drive safely while I'm feeling as ill as I am?" says Leary. He also warns drivers of the dangers of driving while under the influence of over the counter cold medicine. 

While sick driving is not illegal, drivers who knowingly drive with impaired driving skills because of illness are still endangering their own lives and those of the other drivers on the road. Taking a few precautions can save lives and damages.

Sick people can prepare when they feel the symptoms coming on. Rescheduling, having friends run errands and taking the time to rest and rehabilitate are all things that can help keep a sick driver off the road. 

The American Auto Association recommends sick drivers stay home. Their data shows that sick drivers cause more than 600,000 car accidents each year in the United States. A simple way to look at it is to consider the data and then apply it to real life; imagine a night on the town with friends where you down four double shots of whiskey. Imagine the effects and how you’d be feeling.

Would you then get behind the wheel and onto the roadway? Responsible drivers would choose no. The risks are the same when you get behind the wheel while ill.  

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