Safety behind the wheel is always important. Auto manufacturers are constantly addressing vehicle safety but nothing replaces critical thinking and careful driving. Distracted driving is still at the top of the list for accidents along with drinking and driving. However, in light of our new normal, some new hazards are being identified.
Driving While Wearing an N95 Mask Can Be Incredibly Dangerous
According to police in New Jersey, a man wearing an N95 mask for “several hours” and “due to insufficient oxygen intake/excessive carbon dioxide intake” passed out, crashing his car into a pole in the Lincoln Park area.
The Lincoln Park Police Department stated, “While we don’t know [the cause] with 100% certainty, we do know that the driver had been wearing an N95 mask inside the vehicle for several hours and ultimately passed out while operating the vehicle.” The LPPD also said, “nothing was uncovered at the accident scene that would suggest that the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” The most likely cause was the N95 mask.
After the story was originally shared on the LPPD Facebook page, hundreds of comments came in with concerns over the safety of the masks themselves.
They assured the community that they “are not trying to cause public alarm or suggest wearing an N95 mask is unsafe. The original point of the post was to state that in most cases, the wearing of this type of mask while operating a vehicle with no other occupants is unnecessary.”
The police said in an updated post, “In response to some of these comments this should be said. Our officers are not physicians, and we do not know the medical history of every person we encounter. We conduct an investigation at an accident scene and use training, experience, and observations at the scene to determine the cause of an accident. It was stated in the original post that we “believed” the excessive wearing of an N95 was a contributing factor to the accident. It is certainly possible that some other medical reasons could’ve contributed as well. Regardless, the point of the post was to inform the public that wearing these types of masks are not necessary when you’re the sole occupant of a vehicle.”
Recommendations from the CDC
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19). Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
The CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.