Allergies have the potential to cause serious or fatal car accidents by altering a driver’s attention to the road. Allergy symptoms such as runny eyes, sneezing attacks, ringing in the ears, severe congestion, and headaches can impair a driver’s focus and driving skills.
Dangers of Driving With Allergies
Something as simple as seasonal allergies can pose dangers behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Approximately, one-third of all adults suffer from seasonal allergies caused by dust and pollen, but most people just consider them annoying, never dangerous while driving. Drivers don’t realize that allergic symptoms like sneezing, coughing, runny eyes, and severe congestion can lead to impaired driving and accidents on the road.
People who suffer from allergies may not realize that their driving skills are affected, but allergies have numerous symptoms that can impair driving:
- Red, itchy, watering eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Coughing and sneezing
- Wheezing, shortness of breath, asthma
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Hives, itchy skin rashes, fever
All of these allergy symptoms which are quite common have the potential to impact driving ability. While itchy, watery eyes can impair vision, dizziness and drowsiness can affect a driver’s focus on the road. Many people who suffer from allergies take medications such as antihistamines and decongestants to relieve symptoms. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, allergy medications can impact driving skills, even in lower over-the-counter doses. Antihistamines often cause drowsiness or sleepiness, while decongestants often cause a rise in blood pressure that can lead to nervousness, anxiety, heart attack, and stroke.
In rare cases, allergies can lead to severe allergic reactions called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening condition that can develop within minutes of exposure to an allergen. Anaphylaxis can cause serious symptoms including swelling of the throat and mouth, breathing difficulty, mental confusion, and loss of consciousness. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention and treatment to prevent death.
Allergies and Impaired Driving
Allergies can, and often do, impact a person’s quality of life. Allergy sufferers commonly have problems with sleeping which leads to daytime drowsiness and lack of focus on work and daily tasks. In research studies involving 3,800 drivers between the ages of 25 and 53, close to 64% of drivers reported that their allergy symptoms have an impact on their driving skills.
- Delayed reactions – 20% of drivers reported delayed or non-reactions to driving situations
- Drowsiness – 17.5% of drivers had to pull off the road
- Driving errors – 15% of drivers reported making dangerous driving errors
- Vision problems – 15% of drivers reported impaired vision
- Sleepiness – 9.5% of drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel
Drivers with the most severe allergic symptoms who were taking medications experienced the highest rates of drowsiness and reported the most problems with lack of focus and awareness while behind the wheel.
Although alcohol and drugs are major factors in impaired driving accidents, they are not the only factors. Drowsiness and fatigue cause many car accidents by impairing a driver’s attention to the road, slowing reaction times, making poor decisions, and taking the focus off of other drivers. In Nevada, Henderson accident lawyers commonly see serious car crashes caused by drowsy motorists, as well as commercial truckers. Drowsy driving and sleep deprivation, a major problem within the trucking industry, causes thousands of fatal crashes each year.
Impaired Nevada Drivers
In Nevada, a driver’s license may be suspended if a person suffers from certain medical conditions. Although allergies do not qualify for suspension, recurring fainting or dizzy spells and vision and hearing problems do. If a medical condition involves the potential loss of consciousness, the DMV will usually ask a driver to voluntarily give up his/her driver’s license for 90 days. After 90 days, the driver may present the DMV with a doctor’s certification stating the driver is able to drive safely, and the license will be re-issued with or without restrictions.
In Nevada, accident lawyers see three categories of distracted driving: visual distractions, manual distractions, and cognitive distractions. In each case, the driver is doing something that takes his/her focus off the road while driving.
Visual distractions mean taking the driver’s eyes off the road for whatever reason, whether he/she is talking or texting on a cell phone, changing radio stations, picking up something that fell on the floor, or suffering from vision problems due to allergy symptoms.
Manual distractions mean taking the driver’s hands off the wheel. Eating a sandwich, drinking a cup of coffee, texting, changing radio stations, programming a navigation screen, and dealing with sneezing attacks can constitute a manual distraction.
Any interruption that takes a driver’s mind off the road is considered a cognitive distraction. Many allergy symptoms and allergy medications cause cognitive distractions such as drowsiness, mental confusion, errors in judgment, slowed reactions, and impaired driving skills.