Hay Fever Hell Forces Eyes Wide Shut for UK Drivers

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Hay fever and allergies are forcing millions of motorists to drive blind on Britain’s roads. With pollen at its worst over coming months, sufferers could be driving more than nine million miles with their eyes shut, with a bad bout of sneezing seriously impairing driving.

Hay fever and allergies are forcing millions of motorists to drive blind on Britain’s roads.

With pollen at its worst over coming months, sufferers could be driving more than nine million miles with their eyes shut, with a bad bout of sneezing seriously impairing driving.

More than one in four drivers (27%) suffer from hay fever, according to a new report by Halfords, with the most severely affected sneezing at least once a minute.

Police warn that drivers getting behind the wheel while suffering from hay fever could be prosecuted.

The Halfords study also revealed that 10% of drivers suffering from hay fever - which could equate to more than a million motorists - said they have been affected so badly that they have had to stop the car until the sneezing subsided. Added to this almost a third of drivers who suffer from hay fever (32%) admitted they had taken their eyes off the road while searching for tissues.

The research showed that 25% of drivers who suffer from hay fever think that their ability to drive is affected by their symptoms. Insurance companies figures estimate more than 2 million UK motorists have had an accident, near miss, or momentarily lost control of their car as a result of sneezing while driving.

A properly maintained air conditioning system can be a vital first line of defence for hay fever sufferers, according to Halfords Autocentres, as pollen filters can help guard against allergies. Around 80% of modern vehicles are now fitted with aircon systems, and to keep them working at their most efficient, pollen filters should be changed every 12 months during car servicing.

Rory Carlin, Marketing Director at Halfords Autocentres said: "Efficient air con systems can help screen out the pollen that causes hay fever but less than 2% of the cars we see have work carried out on their aircon – suggesting millions of cars have aircon systems that are working inefficiently. Motorists need to ensure they are serviced regularly. It’s a quick and easy check but it could save a great deal of misery.”

PC Steve Rounds, from the Central Motorway Police Group said: “Hay fever is an unfortunate condition that can cause violent sneezing and mean the sufferer closes their eyes temporarily. Watering eyes can also affect a driver’s vision.

“While I have every sympathy with sufferers, commencing a journey in such a state would certainly be irresponsible and could be held as an aggravating factor in any accident that led to a death or serious injury, turning a careless act into a dangerous one and exposing the driver to a charge of causing death by dangerous driving.

“Something else to consider with hay fever is the medication taken to combat it. There’s the obvious effect of drowsiness and this will be highlighted on the packaging with specific warnings.”

Young motorists are more at risk from hay fever which affects almost one in two drivers aged 18 – 25, compared to 20% of motorists aged 50 and over.

Twice as many people suffer from hay fever today, compared with 20 years ago and some allergy experts predict the number of sufferers could triple over the next two decades.

HALFORDS TIPS FOR DRIVERS WITH HAY FEVER:

  •     If you take medication to ease your symptoms make sure it does not cause drowsiness
  •     If you are suffering particularly badly get someone else to drive.
  •     Find out if pollen filters are available for your make of car and have them changed and checked regularly
  •     Keep a supply of tissues close at hand so you do not have to look away from the road to find them
  •     Slow down and increase the distance from the car in front if you are about to sneeze
  •     Wear wrap around sunglasses to prevent irritation of your eyes and to block out bright sun
  •     Close windows and air vents to reduce pollen grains in the car
  •     Ensure carpets and car mats are regularly vacuumedin summer to remove dust and pollen

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  •     The law states that the use of ANY drug by a driver that affects their ability to drive is an offence of driving a vehicle on a road whilst unfit through drugs contrary to section 4(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. If a person is rendered unfit to drive because they have taken hay fever medication or some other everyday drug, then they commit the same offence as if they had taken cannabis or cocaine etc
  •     Average duration eyes are closed when sneezing is 0.5 sec

Halfords has rebranded the chain of 240 Halfords Autocentres, formerly Nationwide Autocentres, which offer car servicing, tyres and MOTs in its distinctive orange and black branding. The network will be 400 strong within five years, creating 1,000 new jobs. For more information visit: http://www.halfordsautocentres.com/.

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Richard Skidmore