Motorists are being warned to check they are safe to drive if they are unwell or taking medication for cold and flu.
Insurethebox, which provides telematics-based car insurance, popular among younger drivers, says that many common over the counter cold and flu medications could cause motorists to have slower reaction times and mean that they are at greater risk of a fine or prison sentence if they are involved in an accident.
According to government research, ‘drug drivers’ are now just as likely to be apprehended as drunk drivers. Contrary to popular belief, the term doesn’t just relate to drivers under the influence of illegal drugs, it also includes legal prescription and over the counter drugs.
Drivers should also be aware of the side-effects of certain cold and flu medications which can include dizziness, nausea and drowsiness, and take care not to overdose by taking tablet and drink-based medications at the same time.
Irrespective of medications taken, the insurer also says sick drivers should question whether they are safe to drive. Simon Rewell, road safety manager at Insurethebox explains: “We are currently at the beginning of the spring cold and flu season which means some people could be getting into their car without thinking about whether they are well enough to drive. Coughs and colds can impair hearing and balance, as well as make people feel sluggish, reducing reaction times and observation. Coughing and sneezing fits are also a danger behind the wheel.”
He adds: “On top of the symptoms of the illness itself, cold and flu treatments could also impair driving ability. If a motorist is pulled over by the police and deemed unfit to drive due to the effect of drugs in their system, it could lead to an unlimited fine or in the worst case, a prison sentence. This makes it vital that drivers read the information that comes with their medication.”
Drivers convicted of drug driving can get a minimum one year driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to six months in prison, and a criminal record. A drug driving conviction will remain on their driving licence for 11 years.
Should a driver cause death by dangerous driving under the influence of drugs, the maximum penalty is a 14-year prison sentence.