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Study: Driving With Cold Like Driving Drunk

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A study conducted by a British insurance company says driving with a bad cold is like driving drunk.

Motor safety experts found the driving skills of people who were sick dropped by 50 percent compared to those who are healthy.

How the study was done and who was studied have not yet been released, but they did announce they noted reduced reaction time, loss of concentration and impaired judgment.

"Many people take over the counter medicines for their colds. Many of them have diphenhydramine or Benadryl in them, which makes you a little sleepy," explains Dr. Thomas Campell of the Allegheny General Hospital emergency department.

"And then sleeplessness, if someone had a bad night sleep because they were up coughing, or had their cold, they're certainly not as aware and awake as they would be normally."

No one has tracked how many accidents are related to cold and flu. But with 500 million colds a year, and 90 percent of Americans driving every day, about 1 million people could be driving with a cold on any given day.

Potentially, it could be a public health threat.

"Anything that can distract you when driving can be hazardous," says Dr. Michael Gronostaj of the Allegheny County Health Department. "Since the common cold can be a distraction, it's a possibility it can impair your driving."

Even so, the emergency room does not see more accidents during cold and flu season.

"If we do on certain days, it's usually due to the weather, not due to colds," Dr. Campbell adds.

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