So there I am driving down the road when I have the dreaded sneeze attack! I personally cannot sneeze with my eyes open! I have tried and I always fear that my eyes will explode. I find it disconcerting that while driving I have to close my eyes for what feels like longer than a blink.
Did you know that the nose and eyes are linked by cranial nerves, so the stimulation from the sneeze travels up one nerve to the brain, then down another nerve to the eyelids, triggering a blink for most people. However, it’s possible for some people to sneeze with their eyes open — without fear of peeper loss.
We hear about accidents caused by drunk driving but what about sneezing? Well one study undertaken by Halfords Autocentres, a British car repair company, found that “2.6 million drivers on Britain’s roads admitted to taking their eyes off the road due to a cold or flu,” according to the Daily Mail. The result? According to Halfords,”2,500 accidents a week in winter,”.
If this study seems dubious — accidents caused specifically by sneezes were not analyzed separately — consider this frighteningly detailed dissection of distracted driving from the Centers for Disease Control:
There are three main types of distraction:
Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and
Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.
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An ill-timed achoo seems to fall within all of these categories. Halfords estimated that those who sneeze while driving at 60 mph may travel 50 feet with their eyes closed — and the CDC said that nine people per day are killed by distracted driving in the United States. In fact, one died after a sneeze in Salisbury, Md., in 2011.
Other examples of non-fatal crashes allegedly caused by sneezes abound. A car that veered off the road in New Hartford, N.Y. A woman who rear-ended a Massachusetts State Police cruiser. A truck driver who smashed into 10 cars in San Leandro, Calif.
So if you’re lucky enough to be able to sneeze with your eyes open good for you BUT for the rest of us as always, DRIVE (SNEEZE) SAFE!
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