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Sneezing and Driving is Scary: Here’s How to Stay Safe
Whether it’s eating, texting or changing the music, there are countless things that can distract you while you’re driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving falls into three main categories:
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road
- Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving
Although you might not hear much about the dangers of sneezing while driving, it fits into all three categories of distracted driving and causes more accidents than you might think.
Accidents happen for various reasons, but even fatal accidents can be caused by something as small as a sneeze. To help you retain control over your driving and avoid distractions, here are seven tips to stop and prevent sneezes while driving.
1. Pull over
Probably the most effective way to avoid a sneeze-induced automobile accident is the simple act of pulling over to sneeze. Most people can feel a sneeze coming on, and that means you should have enough time to pull your vehicle over to a safe shoulder before giving yourself over to the sneeze. Drivers may travel up to 50 feet with their eyes closed while sneezing so, if possible, pull over to sneeze.
2. Take allergy medication
Even if you’re above taking medications for other ailments, don’t skimp on the allergy meds. Seasonal allergies affect a surprising number of people, but you can cut down your symptoms (including sneezing) a great deal by investing in some over-the-counter medication. Be careful you don’t take something that has drowsiness as a side effect, as that would definitely not help you to drive more safely.
3. Change air filters
Your home has air filters that should be changed every three months, and most cars made after 2002 also have cabin filters to keep dust, dirt and other contaminants out of your vehicle.
These filters should be changed every 12,000-15,000 miles, or approximately every year, according to most experts. That being said, your filters will need more frequent changes if you live in a desert climate, drive in heavy traffic often or if your commute has high pollution levels. The more you cut down on irritants and allergens, the less likely you are to sneeze while driving.
4. Wear sunglasses
Different triggers cause different people to sneeze, but if you know that bright sunlight is one of your triggers, wear sunglasses. A little prevention goes a long way, and you’ll look pretty cool too!
5. Blow your nose
Before you begin driving, blow your nose. This will clear your nasal passages and minimize the need to sneeze while you’re on the road. It also keeps your breathing clear, which is a plus for anyone behind the wheel.
6. Stop the sneeze
It’s not comfortable or technically healthy to stop a sneeze in its tracks, but it is possible. If you have very intense sneezes and think you could endanger yourself and your passengers if you don’t do something, you can try these techniques if you feel a sneeze coming on to stop your sneeze:
- Pinch your upper lip
- Put your finger under your nose
- Squeeze your nose
- Grab the spot between your eyebrows
- Distract yourself by thinking about something else
- Flick your forehead
Anything beyond these techniques is probably counterproductive, as it could be equally distracting as sneezing. If all else fails, drive to an area of the road where you have plenty of space between you and other cars.
7. Drive farther back
This is an all-around good rule of thumb for safe driving. The more space you leave between yourself and other vehicles, the less chance you have of hitting someone. Leave a cushion of several car lengths to allow for more reaction time should anything happen, such as a sneeze. If you feel a sneeze coming on, slow down to create extra space.