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£350m crash bill for driving with a cold

11 February 2009

More than 125,000 crashes were caused last year by motorists with colds and flu, as new scientific research reveals the serious impact of driver illness on accident rates.

A new study commissioned by Lloyds TSB Insurance proves that driving with a virus such as cold or flu, impairs driver awareness by as much as 11% - the equivalent of downing a double whisky before getting behind the wheel.

The experiment put drivers with a variety of conditions, including PMT, stress, and headaches, through an approved hazard simulator test. Those suffering from colds and flu came off worst, with reaction times and alertness slashed compared to a healthy driver.

According to the motor insurance provider, one in 10 road accidents in 2008 can be attributed to driver flu - which landed the nation with a £350 million bill. And a significant rise in such incidents is being predicted over the next few months as cold and flu pandemics grip the nation.

Despite the risks, public awareness of the problem is low, with 12 million (38%) admitting that they have driven while suffering from cold or flu - with half of these drivers (46%) believing that the illness has no affect at all on their driving ability.

Now, Lloyds TSB Insurance is warning drivers of the dangers of being unwell at the wheel, particularly when combined with medication, fatigue or a small amount of alcohol, which all have a significant impact on driving ability.

A spokeswoman said: “Our research proves that getting behind the wheel when ill causes thousands of accidents every year. This serves as a double warning for drivers - firstly, try to avoid driving if you’re suffering from cold or flu and secondly, be prepared for other drivers’ irresponsibility by making sure you are comprehensively insured.”