How a cold can turn you into a killer on the roads

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DRIVERS with a heavy cold should think twice before getting behind the wheel, according to new research.

Tests show driving ability dropped by more than 50 per cent when motorists were under the weather – the equivalent of downing four double whiskies.

Insurance company Young Marmalade carried out research with Halfords, using equipment that recorded speed, braking and cornering.

Reaction times dropped sharply, sudden braking became much more frequent because motorists were less aware of surrounding traffic and cornering became erratic.

David Short, of Calderdale Road Safety Team, urged drivers to use common sense and not compromise their ability.

While there are no regulations regarding driving with colds, he was keen to make people aware of the effects of various medication. “Quite a lot make you drowsy and openly say don’t take when driving,” he said.

“Driving requires full attention and if people are under the weather it can compromise that as reaction times will be slower.”

Winter colds can also be compounded by road conditions at this time of year.

The council’s 350 staff who drive on business are currently undergoing 45-minute winter driving-awareness programmes to prepare them for additional dangers.

Mr Short said the sessions were part of the council’s road-risk work and covered issues such as health, surface grip and visibility.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said fitness-to-drive legislation covered drinking and drugs. But driving with a heavy cold and taking medication could impair decision-making and put motorists at risk of a careless driving charge.

“If there is an accident and if someone is not fit to drive, careless driving might be there, but we would have to have evidence,” he said.

There are no official figures for accidents caused by sneezing, colds and flu, but the insurance industry suspects motorists are responsible for thousands of prangs while under the weather. The findings back up work done by the Common Cold Unit.