08:58 05 February 2009
Scientific research has revealed the serious impact of driver illness on accident rates.
More than 125,000 crashes were caused last year by motorists driving while they had a cold or the flu.
The study commissioned by Lloyds TSB Insurance, proves that driving with a virus, impairs driver awareness by as much as 11% - the equivalent of downing a double whisky before getting behind the wheel.
The experiment put drivers with a variety of conditions, including PMT, stress, and headaches, through an approved hazard simulator test. Those suffering from colds and flu came off worst, with reaction times and alertness slashed compared to a healthy driver.
According to the motor insurance provider, one in 10 road accidents in 2008 can be attributed to driver flu - which landed the nation with a 350 million bill. What's more, they are predicting a significant rise in such incidents over the next few months as cold and flu pandemics grip the nation.
Despite the risks, public awareness of the problem is low, with 12 million (38%) admitting that they have driven while suffering from cold or flu - with half of these drivers (46%) believing that the illness has no affect at all on their driving ability.
In response to this, Lloyds TSB Insurance is warning drivers of the dangers of being unwell at the wheel, particularly when combined with medication, fatigue or a small amount of alcohol, which all have a significant impact on driving ability.
Paula Whiskerd, spokesperson for Lloyds TSB Insurance, said: "Our research proves that getting behind the wheel when ill causes thousands of accidents every year.
"This serves as a double warning for drivers - firstly, try to avoid driving if you're suffering from cold or flu and secondly, be prepared for other drivers' irresponsibility by making sure you are comprehensively insured."
Dr Dawn Harper (pictured left), who is supporting the campaign, added: "Safe driving requires concentration and good reactions, both of which are significantly reduced, even by just a mild cold.
"I would advise drivers suffering from these conditions to avoid getting behind the wheel until they are better."
Dr Dawn's advice for drivers:
1 - When to keep off the road
There are a few good rules of thumb you can use if you're unsure about whether you're fit to drive. If your illness is causing fatigue, dizziness, serious headaches, or bouts of sneezing, then unnecessary journeys should be postponed if possible. Definitely don't drive if your eyesight is affected, and if your illness is keeping you off work, you're probably not fit to drive either.
2 - Check your medication
Often people rely on over the counter drugs to get them through their illness, but you should always ask your pharmacist about whether it's safe to drive and check the information that comes with the medication. This is because medicines that combat your symptoms can also have side effects that make it unsafe to drive. I'd also advise you to avoid alcohol when you're unwell - not only can this effect your driving directly, it can also react badly with medication.
3 - Don't ignore your body
It might be tempting to try and carry on as normal when you're feeling ill, but in reality you could well be prolonging your illness and what's more - endangering yours and other road user's safety. So listen to what your body is telling you.
4 - Phone a friend
If you're not feeling great but need to get somewhere urgently, call a friend, family member or taxi. It's better to do this than putting yourself and others in danger.
5 - If in doubt...
...Don't go out. Put a hold on unnecessary journeys - you probably need the rest anyway. Remember, when you're ill your body is under strain fighting off the infection and this can affect you in unexpected ways, so wait until you're 100% better before getting back behind the wheel.
For more information visit: www.sneezeanddrive.com
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