Driving With a Cold: Just as Bad as Driving Drunk?

Anyone can catch a cold year-round, but people are most susceptible to the common cold during the winter months, as colder, drier air more easily spreads germs among those indoors. Most people don’t think much of going about their day with the common cold. However, research suggests that if you are sick, you may be a danger to yourself and others on the road.medicine

For example, one study by the Cardiff University’s Common Cold Centre in the U.K. reports that concentration when one is driving with a bad cold or a flu is lowered by 50 percent. To put that into perspective: That’s like drinking four double whiskey shots. Researchers studying the effects of being ill on reaction times behind the wheel discovered that sudden braking became increasingly common among sick drivers, who were much less aware of their surroundings. Instances of drivers hitting the curb went up by a third, as drivers were also apparently less capable of accurately judging the distance. A heavy cold, researchers say, impacts a motorist’s mood, judgment and concentration – all of which play a central role in safe driving.

Aside from this, there are numerous cases of drivers who are impaired by medications – both over-the-counter and prescription – to treat colds, the flu and other conditions. Just recently in South Carolina, a woman was criminally prosecuted in Kranchick v. State for driving impaired on cold medication, which resulted in her losing control of her vehicle on the highway, slamming into a tractor trailer and a smaller truck, killing that vehicle’s driver and seriously injuring a passenger and the tractor-trailer driver.¬†

According to court records, defendant had marijuana in her system in addition to high levels of cold medications (which prosecutors alleged were in excess of therapeutic uses), but she denied this. The trial court initially granted a defense motion for post-conviction relief based on a challenge to an expert witness testifying about the toxicology report, but the South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated the original sentence – 13 years.

Both the study and this case highlight the issue of when motorists should refrain from driving. It should be noted that Florida’s drunk driving law, F.S. 316.193, opens the door to an impaired driving conviction if a person is in control of a vehicle and is under the influence of either alcohol or any chemical substance that impairs his or her “normal faculties.” Of course, that could be subject to interpretation, but many cold medicine manufacturers make it clear that users should avoid taking the medication if they plan to operate heavy machinery or perform any tasks that requires them to remain alert.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration warns there are a host of different over-the-counter medications that can have a negative impact on one’s ability to drive. Those may include antihistamines, antidiarrheals¬†and anti-emetics (those used to treat vomiting and nausea).

Unfortunately, too many people may take the effects of these medications for granted. Our Boca Raton car accident attorneys upon accepting a case will explore whether the at-fault driver involved may have consumed medication that may have clouded his or her judgment. We will also look to determine whether there is evidence of a medication condition about which the driver knew or should have known should have prompted them to stay off the road.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

When driving with a cold is as bad as being drunk –¬† and even being a snorer or having a bad back could make a menace at the wheel, March 17, 2014, By Angela Epstein, The Daily Mail

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