Driver Education: Driving with a Cold or the Flu

With cold and flu season here, many drivers are hurrying to drug stores and pharmacies for tissues, hand sanitizer, and over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, fever, and body aches. Unfortunately, alleviating cold and flu symptoms won’t necessarily make them safer drivers.

Colds are characterized by sore throat, sneezing and runny nose, and coughing.

Although many people have little to no fever with colds, these effects can be debilitating. Aside from the distraction these symptoms cause, drivers are often irritable due to their degree of discomfort and drowsy because the symptoms make it difficult to sleep well. This collection of problems can mean that these drivers take chances they wouldn’t ordinarily take, such as turning left in front of oncoming traffic or running red traffic lights, in an effort to get home quickly.

Flu symptoms commonly include coughing and body aches, often with a high fever and chills. In addition to feeling ill-tempered and sleepy, these drivers may also suffer from disorientation and dizziness. Driving effects could include slower reaction time, poor coordination, and impaired judgment.

In an effort to continue their normal activities, some drivers choose to take over-the-counter medications to ease their cold or flu symptoms. However, these medications do not typically eliminate symptoms. They also wear off quickly and can have side effects that compromise the user’s ability to drive safely, such as:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Loss of muscle control and motor coordination
  • Increased reaction time
  • Jittery feelings and nervousness
  • Drowsiness

It’s best to stay off the road when you have a cold or the flu. Seek support from family and friends by asking for a ride to the doctor’s office if you need to go and arranging carpools for your children; you can repay these favors when you’re feeling better. Getting plenty of rest is the best way for you to recover from the cold or flu quickly so you can safely get back on the road.