Most professional drivers receive a lot of information and training on how to recognize fatigue and the actions they should take to avoid driving while tired. However, there is another category of driving that may be just as dangerous… driving while sick.
A carrier driver was recently involved in an accident due to his continued driving while being very ill. In this particular case, the tank truck driver was driving on an interstate highway when he had an extreme coughing attack. The driver stated that he believes he blacked out from the coughing and, as a result, the truck drifted across the passing lane and into the barriers separating the east and west lanes of the interstate. Fortunately, there were no other vehicles involved in the accident and the driver was unhurt, but the tank truck was punctured, which resulted in a spill.
The driver involved in the accident was interviewed as part of the investigation and he stated that he was sick and had been coughing for a few days, but didn’t realize he was too sick to drive safely. He thought he could make the delivery and then was planning on taking some time off to get well.
So, can someone faint or black out from a coughing attack? The answer is yes and it happens to truck and passenger car drivers way too often… and many times the results are fatal.
The term used for fainting or blacking out while coughing is called cough syncope. Syncope is temporary loss of consciousness and posture, described as “fainting” or “passing out.” It is usually related to temporary insufficient blood flow to the brain.
One study conducted in the U.K. looked at the driving skills of people who were sick and they were estimated to drop by about 50 percent when compared with those who were healthy. The study found that sick people were more likely to have reduced reaction times and experience a loss of concentration.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration addresses ill and fatigued driving under Part 392.3. The regulation states “No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle, while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle.”
When feeling sick, you should consider seeing a physician to get professional advice on your condition, your ability to drive safely, and any medication that can or should be taken safely while driving.