common cold

The Common Cold Makes You a Lousy Driver

blowing nose
Photo: Matthew Brown/Getty Images(c) Matthew Brown

We get that drinking and driving is bad news, and researchers who study this stuff are now getting the message across that drowsy driving and distracted driving are no good either. But here’s a new one: Something as simple as the common cold might also impair your alertness and reaction time behind the wheel, according to some new research.

It’s a small study, with just 25 participants, some of whom were healthy and some of whom were battling a cold. Two researchers from Cardiff University ran them through two tests, including a driving simulation requiring them to steer around obstacles while tracking their speed and how closely they obeyed traffic laws. The Association for Psychological Science reports the findings:

Smith and Jamson found that those students with a cold performed more poorly than their healthier counterparts in many of the measurements.

Particularly, participants with a cold were significantly more likely to react slower to target stimuli, collide into pedestrians, and keep unsafe distances when following other cars.

The results, published in BMJ Open Journal, suggest that driving with the sniffles may be hazardous to your safety, and the safety of others.

I was going to say, if you feel a cold coming on, take public transit, but that’s not exactly right, because your fellow commuters won’t appreciate your snotty, germy presence. But staying home with something as benign as the sniffles might not be an option, either. So … When do we get those self-driving cars, again? 

The Common Cold Makes You a Lousy Driver