It’s no news that the U.S. is currently dealing with one of the worst flu seasons in years. Connecticut’s Health Department is calling this year’s flu epidemic “alarming,” with the Department of Public Health now reporting Connecticut’s flu death toll at 105 for the 2018 season alone.
Far more than simply alarming, the flu season has proven to be deadly for New England residents.
While the vast majority of deaths have occurred among patients over 65, the flu poses surprising dangers for all ages when people decide to drive while suffering from a serious cold.
It may sound extreme, but a recent study showed shocking similarities between ill and drunk drivers.
British insurance company Young Marmalade in partnership with parts retailer Halfords conducted a study by installing black boxes in vehicles to record driving metrics like acceleration, braking, speed, and lateral G-forces.
Their findings revealed that people with flu-like symptoms had a 50% loss of concentration, braked more suddenly and frequently, had slower reaction times, and decreased alertness (AccurateAutoAdvice.com).
The level of impairment was equal to drinking four double whiskeys.
Other flu symptoms that can directly affect driving are watery eyes, fatigue, coughing attacks, and sneezing. A single sneeze can last up to three seconds, causing a driver traveling at 70 mph to drive blindly for 315 feet.
Driving with the flu is no small hindrance and should be treated with the same urgency and admonition as driving after consuming alcohol.
Certain laws are meant to protect drivers from the dangers of drunk driving or texting while driving, but there are currently no laws for driving while sick – even though the risks are just as serious.
Rather than put your own life and the lives of others at risk, it’s best to call a friend or a taxi service if you need to get around while you’re sick. If you absolutely must drive yourself, do not take any medicine containing any ingredients that could further impair you. Many over-the-counter medications designed to fight off flu symptoms can actually induce fatigue, such as naproxen and codeine, while several popular decongestants contain alcohol.
Certain medications may give temporary feelings of confidence and alertness, but these effects are deceptive. Drugs can significantly impact your judgment, giving impaired drivers a false sense of control.
Suffice to say, driving under the influence of any drugs or substance – even those prescribed by a doctor – can lead to serious car accidents and injury. Police officers warn that it can even land you behind bars.
For more information on which over-the-counter medicines could affect your driving, read this list posted by the FDA.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health and State epidemiologists say the 2018 flu season could continue for another four to six weeks.
Driving when you have the flu is irresponsible for more than one reason. If you are sick, taking medication, or just aren’t feeling your best, think twice before getting behind the wheel.