A person in their car with the words, "is it dangerous to drive while sick?"

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Most individuals operate a motor vehicle at some point during their day. Responsibilities call us to get behind the wheel and head to a variety of destinations. Whether these trips are to work, the grocery store, a school, doctor’s office, etc, we don’t generally think of them as dangerous. However, Texas roads are no stranger to accidents. One in five accidents on Texas roadways are caused by distracted driving. In 2020, distracted driving accidents accounted for 367 deaths and 2,205 serious injuries.

When most people think of distracted driving, they generally get the stereotypical image of a person on their phone or changing the radio. Maybe some individuals think of a parent correcting their child in the back seat or a work vehicle operator eating. While these certainly are some of the major causes of distracted driving, there is one more that people often don’t think of: driving while sick.

In this article, the dedicated car accident attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. have taken a closer look at how driving while sick can affect your motor skills and lead to an accident. Here is what you need to know to keep yourself safe:

Is Driving While Sick Considered Distracted Driving?

A doctor holding a bottle of medicine.

In the State of Texas, driving while sick is considered distracted driving. Depending on the illness you have, your reaction time can be significantly reduced, you may feel drowsy, and your ability to stay focused is severely impacted.

While driving to a doctor’s office or pharmacy while sick may seem like the responsible thing to do, it isn’t. Any time you take your attention off the road, you are driving distracted and this greatly increases the risk of getting into an accident.

For example, sneezing forces you to close your eyes, and while this may only be for a brief second, that’s all it takes to lose control of your car. For more severe illnesses, sneezing several times in a row can cause you to miss important information for a short distance. This can include missing that the car in front of you has stopped, that there is a pedestrian crossing, or that the car next to you has merged into your lane.

The Effects of Certain Medicines Can Make Your Driving Worse

There are a wide variety of different medicines on the market to help individuals handle the symptoms of their illness. While these medicines help us feel better, many come with a warning label about operating a vehicle or machinery. Even for medicines that don’t carry this warning label, such as cold medicine, the effects can still alter your awareness or behavior behind the wheel of a car.

For example, one of the leading medicines to help reduce nasal congestion, Sudafed, has some side effects that can be dangerous for drivers. These side effects include the following:

  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Hallucinations

Even other seemingly harmless medicines, such as Dayquil and Nyquil, can cause individuals to become drowsy. This increases the chances of the driver falling asleep behind the wheel, leading to an accident.

Avoid Driving With the Following Illnesses or Medical Conditions

Illnesses require rest for most individuals to successfully fight it off and get better. If you have a cold or the flu, you shouldn’t be driving. Even if you think it is a minor cold, choosing to get behind a wheel can increase your chances of injury. Always do the responsible thing and stay home while you are sick. If you cannot stay home or need to go somewhere such as a doctor, ask a loved one or a friend to drive you. Do not drive yourself.

A gavel is on a desk in front of a bookshelf.

Here are just a few illnesses that you should avoid driving with if possible:

  • Flu
  • Cold
  • COVID-19
  • Stomach bug
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Morning sickness
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Severe allergies (if your allergies are severe enough to keep you from going to work, do not get behind the wheel of a car)
  • Sleep Apnoea
  • Syncope
  • Heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation
  • Epilepsy

A basic rule of thumb when deciding if you are well enough to get behind a vehicle is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my illness or condition keeping me from working? (If yes, do not drive).
  • Is the medication I am taking for my illness or condition known to slow reaction time, cause dizziness, make me drowsy, or hallucinate? (If yes, do not drive).
  • Do I have the ability to call a loved one or friend to come drive me to my appointment or doctor? (if yes, this may be a better option for you.)

Driving While Sick Is Considered Negligence

If an individual gets behind the wheel of a car and gets into an accident, they may be held liable for damages. Driving while sick is considered negligent because the driver willingly chose to get in the car and drive, even though they knew they were sick. If you were injured in an accident with a driver who was sick, you need to call the car accident attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, today!

Our team is always willing to help you get the compensation you deserve. We fight to uphold your rights, bring the responsible parties to justice, and aid you on your road to recovery. If you would like to speak with one of our staff about your case, contact our team to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.