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Driving with allergies nearly as dangerous as drunk driving

A very interesting study was recently released be researchers in the Netherlands that shows drivers who have allergies are comparable to drunk drivers. According to the study drivers with "allergy symptoms" drove about as well as someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.03. Participants in the study had tree or grass pollen allergies, and they had to drive for 60 minutes.

Researchers then measured their "standard deviation of lateral position" -- or in layman's terms, how much the driver swerved from the center position of their lane. This is a typical measurement of drunk drivers, and the allergy-stricken drivers measured in with the driving control of someone with a 0.03 BAC.

What does this mean for drunk driving law? Well, nothing really. But what it does show is that there are plenty of reasons why a driver may be "impaired" -- and they may not even require illicit substances to achieve. People with allergies struggle with watery eyes, runny noses, sneezing and other bodily reactions that make it harder for them to drive. Just as drivers with too much to drink struggle to drive, those who play loud music while they drive, or drive while they have the flu, or drive after they have suffered a concussion may also struggle to drive.

We're not advocating for drunk driving to be legalized, just as the act of driving with the flu or allergies is legal. Instead, we're simply pointing out that drunk drivers aren't always the demonic, terrible people the media portrays them as. Many people who are charged or convicted with a DWI are good, honest people who made one mistake. 

People make risky driving decisions comparable to drunk driving everyday -- like driving with allergies. This doesn't necessarily make them bad people. We all just need to be a little safer when we decide to get behind the wheel of a car.

Source: KTVU, "Study: Driving with allergies similar to drunken driving," WSB-TV, July 10, 2014

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