Driving or riding when unwell – Advice from IAM RoadSmart

Blog post posted on 18/01/21 |

Although coronavirus has been dominating the health agenda of late, we should not forget that winter is often the time when we get more common conditions like cold and flu. So, if you do have to make an essential journey and are feeling under the weather, it’s important to consider whether you’re fit to drive or ride before you get behind the wheel or on your motorcycle.

Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Driving and Riding Standards, offers these practical tips to any driver or rider feeling under par. 

  • Most importantly, if you or anyone in your household is suffering from any coronavirus symptoms – including a high temperature, a new persistent cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – you should follow government advice, stay at home and get a test. See details here. Do not drive your car or ride your motorbike while you’re isolating and until you know you’re clear of the virus.
  • If you have ruled out coronavirus, and are still feeling unwell and have to make an essential trip, don’t just ignore your symptoms. Be aware of the detrimental effect that they can have on your levels of fatigue, awareness and response. Driving or riding with a heavy cold can significantly impact your concentration and slow down your reaction time by up to 50 per cent. So, the best solution is to avoid driving or riding at all if you’re feeling very ill.
  • Some over-the-counter medicines contain ingredients which can make you feel extremely drowsy and blur your vision. If you’re taking any medicine, even shop bought ones, check the instructions and possible side effects thoroughly before you head out on the road.
  • It’s also best to check with your GP or pharmacist about any prescription drugs you’re taking and their potential side-effects. Always read the information leaflet supplied with your medicine thoroughly. If any doubt, do not drive or ride. It is also important to note that modern roadside drug tests can pick up some opiates, but if you have stuck to the instructions for your medication and your doctor’s advice, you should be ok.
  • At 30mph you travel 13 metres every second. If your cold or illness causes you to sneeze while you’re driving or riding, this means that you’ll be travelling for a period of time with your eyes closed. This split-second loss of attention could result in you temporarily losing of control of your vehicle. Avoid driving or riding if your symptoms include sneezing.
  • With any illness you should wait until you’re feeling much better before you get back behind the wheel or on your bike. If you wouldn’t advise someone you care about to drive or ride when they’re feeling under the weather, you shouldn’t either.

Richard says “We know winter driving is challenging enough as it is, so – if you do have to make an essential journey - don’t add more stress by compromising yours and others’ safety by getting behind the wheel or on your bike when you’re ill. Taking plenty of rest away from the road is the ideal route to recovery. If you have any doubts leave the keys on the hook and, where possible, walk to your destination. This is the much safer option and will, anyway, be a better aid to your recovery.”