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Sneezing to Blame for Car Accidents?
Most of us have. Drivers young and old are guilty. Chances are we’ve all sneezed while driving at some point. When driving, crossing intersections, changing lanes, and minding our business while we drive, the tingling can be felt at any time. After the tingle comes the panic, just when you realize that a single sneeze could cause an accident.
Most drivers survive a sneeze by driving unscathed from an accident. But some have accidents caused by this uncontrollable and unpredictable reflex. The dangers of sneezing while driving can be frightening.
Statistics on sneezing while driving
Little research has been done on the subject of sneezing while driving in the United States. But British researchers paid attention and noted some remarkable statistics.
According to a study by English cold and flu doctor Olbas Max Strength, more than two million car accidents were caused by sneezing.
UK car repair firm Halfords Autocentres reported that 2.6 million UK drivers admitted to taking their eyes off the road due to cold or flu symptoms. Halfords also blamed 2,500 accidents each week during British winters on these unnamed cold and flu conditions. Of course, sneezing is the most likely culprit to blame in these flu-generated wrecks.
In the United States, the National Safety Council (NSC) is clear that distracted driving is very deadly. This organization reports that 1.6 million car accidents are caused by distracted driving each year, specifically blaming the driver’s use of a mobile phone or texting while driving. But the NSC did not provide statistics regarding sneezing and driving.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers distracted driving to be any form of vehicle operation that could be categorized into one or more of these three types:
Visual – eyes are removed from the road while driving
Manual – hands are removed from the steering wheel while the vehicle is moving
Cognitive – the driver’s mind is not focused on vehicle operation and safety while driving
It is clear that sneezing while driving can belong to these three categories at the same time. Beyond distraction, a particularly hard sneeze can add a violent head bang to the reflex. Drivers are known to bang their heads against the steering wheel and other internal car surfaces.
According to Halfords, drivers who sneeze while driving at 60 miles per hour can travel 50 feet or more with their eyes completely closed. Sneezing can cause temporary disorientation and watery eyes afterwards, adding to the distance potentially traveled without visual control.
US road accidents caused by sneezing while driving
While the statistical data is light for this category of distracted driving in the United States, the results for sneezing while driving are clear. Numerous car accidents have been reported by police across the country.
In Missouri in 2012, the death of a single mother was blamed on a schoolteacher who lost control of her car due to a sneeze.
In New Hartford, New York, a driver ran off the freeway because of a sneeze.
A Massachusetts woman likely scared herself when she ran over a state police cruiser because of a sneeze.
In San Leandro, California, a sneezing trucker collided with 10 other cars.
A driver died after a sneezing accident in Salisbury, Maryland in 2011.
Experts look into the dangers of sneezing while driving
British police chief Steve Rounds said of sneezing while driving: “Sneezing can cause the victim to temporarily close their eyes.” He continued: “Driving a car with severe cold symptoms is certainly irresponsible and an accident resulting in death or serious injury may expose the sneezing driver to dangerous driving charges.”
Phoenix car accident attorney Cantor Crane advises drivers to try and pull over when sneezing. Your vehicle can be considered a lethal weapon while in motion. It is therefore very important to concentrate on the roadway when driving. It means focusing your eyes and mind on the road, hands on the wheel. Given that studies indicate that seven percent of drivers who sneeze are involved in crashes due to their cold-related reflex, Crane stresses the importance of viewing a sneeze as just as dangerous as other forms of distracted driving. “Your actions can cause injury and even death, so it’s very important to be responsible the next time you sneeze while driving your vehicle.”
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