As Kansas City lawyers, we know that distraction is a contributing factor in many Missouri auto accidents. However, in certain crashes, the source of the driver's distraction comes from places you might not expect. Halfords Autocentres conducted a study and found that 9% of all auto accidents in Britain were a result of drivers taking their eyes off the road due to cold or flu symptoms.
Accidents Caused by Sneezing
Last November, a woman's sneezing attack led to a fatal auto accident in the Kansas City area. Authorities say the crash happened when Kathryn Brady had a sneezing fit while driving on a Smithville, Missouri highway. Brady then swerved across the highway's centerline, striking another car head-on. The other driver, 30-year-old Laura McClendon, died as a result of her injuries. In addition, McClendon's one-year-old son was hospitalized in serious condition and was ultimately left paralyzed. Brady was charged with careless and imprudent driving and failing to have car insurance, and recently she was sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service for causing the crash.
Car accidents caused by sneezing aren't exactly common, but they do happen. Recently, in Maine, a similar accident occurred when a driver's sneeze caused her vehicle to cross a highway centerline and strike another car. Luckily, no one was seriously injured in that crash. The state police reported that the accident could have been fatal, but both drivers were following the speed limit and wearing their seatbelts.
How to Protect Yourself and Prevent an Accident
When we think of distracted drivers, we tend to think of cell phones, but some of the most common distractions are attending to bodily functions. According to research from the Health Protection Agency, sneezing behind the wheel can be equivalent to a motorist traveling blind for 50 feet. To prevent a sneezing attack from causing an auto accident, always maintain a safe following distance. In good conditions (sunlight, dry roads, and low traffic), follow the "three-second rule." To determine if you are the appropriate distance behind a vehicle, first, locate a fixed object along the roadway. Then, when the car ahead of you passes that object, count to see how many seconds it takes you to pass the object yourself. However, if driving conditions are less than ideal - or if you are feeling ill - it's wise to extend the three-second rule to six-seconds. Allowing more space between your vehicle and the cars ahead of you will give you more time to react if a sneezing or coughing attack comes on suddenly. Of course, if you feel an attack coming on, pulling off the road is often the safest choice.
So, what can you do to protect yourself from distracted drivers on Kansas City roads? Driving defensively is an excellent place to start. Safety officials recommend that all drivers take a defensive driving course to help them learn how to protect themselves from potential roadway dangers, including distracted drivers. If you're interested, the Safety Council of the Ozarks has offered a defensive driving course since 1964. This program is highly effective and has received recognition from the State of Missouri. Some basic defensive driving techniques include being aware of other cars around you at all times; being aware of your surroundings; and acting with caution towards other drivers on the road.