Never, ever drive under the influenza, warns council

People who drive with colds or flu can take 10% longer to react than healthy drivers

Motorists suffering from cold or flu have been warned “driving under the influenza” could be as dangerous as drink-driving.

If you are not well enough to undertake a journey, it could be dangerous for yourself and other road users, Mayo County Council said in a statement. Ireland is currently in the middle of a flu outbreak, which is not expected to peak for another three weeks.

Research in the UK using a driving simulator found that people who drove with heavy colds or the flu took 10 per cent longer to react than healthy drivers. This caused them to travel up to two extra metres at 100km per hour before they started to break, the council said.

The local authority said drivers “under the influenza” were also less aware of hazards on the road if they were feeling ill.


Cough and cold remedies also pose a danger for drivers by making them drowsy.

“Medication bought over the counter in pharmacies, as well as prescription drugs, can lead to drowsiness that is the equivalent of being drunk,” it said.

“Regrettably too often the warnings on medicine packaging are vague and difficult to find, which causes great confusion and can lead to real dangers on our roads.”

Sneezing risks

Motorists who suffer from sneezing fits are particularly at risk, according to Mayo Road Safety Officer Noel Gibbons.

“The dangers posed include driving blind for 65m when sneezing at 100km per hour – and possibly further if sneezing more than once,” he said. “Safe driving requires concentration and good reactions, both of which are significantly reduced, even by just a mild cold. If you are not well enough to undertake your journey you could be putting yourself and other people on the road at risk.

“We know that illnesses can impair driving ability as they can slow reactions, reduce observation and even limit the ability to make good judgments,” he said.

“I would advise drivers suffering from these conditions to avoid getting behind the wheel until they are better.”

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times