Most people associate car accidents with drunk driving and hazardous weather conditions. However, a startlingly high number of car crashes and fatalities can be attributed to distracted driving. Hands-free technology can help alleviate this problem, but many drivers still admit to texting while driving. Even things that might seem harmless, such as snacking while driving, can cause deadly accidents. But what about things you can’t control, like yawning or sneezing?
According to The NewsWheel, the latter has caused a surprising number of injuries behind the wheel.
How bad is sneezing while driving?
If you’ve ever sneezed while driving, you know it can distract you for at least a couple of seconds. This can be even worse if you experience other symptoms, such as runny eyes or nose. You might need to hunt for a tissue or napkin while trying to drive. Even wiping your nose on your shirt or sleeve requires you to avert your eyes from the road.
The NewsWheel cites a few studies that show the dangers of sudden sneezing. One UK study reported that your car travels 50 feet when you close your eyes to sneeze. This translates to 2,500 accidents a week and nine fatalities per day. Another report says as many as two million drivers have crashed due to sneezing, the Daily Mail reports.
Deadly accidents caused by sneezing
The Washington Post documented several fatal crashes due to a simple sneeze. One led to a deadly rollover accident in Australia, and one caused a woman to lose control of her vehicle. A sneeze once sent a truck driver smashing into 10 cars, thankfully with no fatalities.
Although it might be over in a split second, a sneeze can hinder your visual and cognitive abilities. Most drivers catch their sneezes in their hands, leaving their car unattended. Sneezes often come without warning, but try to hold them back until you stop your vehicle.
What are the most common driving distractions?
Texting continues to be the most dangerous driving distraction, killing over 3,000 motorists or passengers in 2019. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the average driver averts their eyes from the road for five seconds while reading a text message. Even if you glance at the road before looking down at your phone, an obstacle can appear in just one second.
Drivers can also be distracted by talking to other people in the vehicle. Kids often become bored in the backseat, getting noisy enough to grab their parents’ attention. If your pet isn’t properly restrained in the car, trying to keep them under control can also lead to an accident.
Eating is another common distraction for drivers, but the simple act of consumption isn’t the most dangerous part. The real danger lies in grabbing the food, unwrapping the packaging, and using utensils while driving. There’s also the possibility you might eat too fast and start choking behind the wheel.
Though not as common, some drivers also try to perform basic hygiene behind the wheel. It’s not uncommon to see someone brushing their hair, applying makeup, or even changing their clothes at a stoplight. Although your eyes could still technically be on the road, your hands should always be on the wheel.
And while those large touchscreens may be approved for automotive use, they can still distract certain drivers. AAA found that most drivers try to configure their infotainment systems for a whopping 40 seconds at a time. If your touchscreen is slow or outdated, the added frustration can also lead to aggressive driving.
So although sneezing while driving is dangerous, it’s not as common as some of the above distractions.