As the UK pollen count starts to soar, Swinton, the UK’s leading high street retailer of cheap car insurance, warns that taking hay fever medication while driving could lead to prosecution or losing your licence.
According to The Crown Prosecution Service, the Road Traffic Act (RTA) that relates to driving while under the influence of drugs does not differentiate between prescription drugs, illegal drugs or over the counter remedies for hay fever. The penalty for drug driving is the same as drink driving and could lead to a fine of up to GBP 5,000 or a minimum one year ban.
Hay fever is an extremely common condition that affects nine million people in the UK and many remedies contain antihistamines which can cause drowsiness and can lead to impaired driving increasing the likelihood of the motorist being involved in an accident.
Dr Chris Steele, resident doctor from ITV’s This Morning, said: "Already this year we’ve seen record numbers of people coming in to the surgery suffering from hay fever. Many people are not aware of the strength of some hay fever medicines and the side effects they can have including drowsiness, dizziness and confusion. I would strongly recommend that if taking any medicines you should read the instructions and warnings very carefully and be extra vigilant about driving or operating any machinery.
"Some people even take a cocktail of different medications to help alleviate their hay fever symptoms. This could react with prescription treatment you take from your doctor, so ask your pharmacist about all the medicines you’re taking i.e. over the counter and prescription medication."
A survey of 1,500 Swinton car insurance customers found that 23% motorists did not read the warnings on hay fever medicines and a further 19% claimed that they would happily drive while taking the medication regardless of any warnings on the packet. Worryingly 72% of those questioned did not consider driving a car to be ‘operating heavy machinery’ and listed cranes, fork lift trucks and factory machinery as items they consider to be ‘heavy’.
The study also found that 18% of motorists admitted to drinking alcohol while taking hay fever drugs and then driving to work the next morning.
Steve Chelton, Insurer Development Manager, for Swinton said "If the police stop you and determine that you are unfit to drive due to the medication you have taken to alleviate hay fever symptoms, you can get pet penalty points, lose your licence or even be prosecuted. Whether the drugs are illegal, prescribed, or over-the-counter, the repercussions are the same. Losing or having points added to your licence can cause your car insurance premiums to rise considerably."
But it is not just medication that can cause problems when driving. Many hay fever symptoms could lead to problems when driving including runny, itchy nose; itchy, watery eyes; loss of concentration and repeated sneezing attacks. It is calculated that if a motorists sneezes while driving at 70mph, that they will travel up to 300ft with their eyes closed – far enough to cause a fatal accident at such high speed.
Steve Chelton from Swinton continues "Hay fever symptoms could seriously impair a person’s ability to drive. Some modern cars come with pollen filters fitted as standard. However it is possible to have them installed in to an existing vehicle, which could help alleviate the symptoms of hay fever while driving. We would also recommend that drivers keep their windows closed to reduce the levels of pollen entering the car."
— With 580 branches nationwide Swinton is the UK’s largest high street insurance retailer — Unlike many other companies in the financial services industry, Swinton is committed to keeping its branches open for business, and part of the community — Swinton provides a one-stop-shop for the insurance and related needs of its clients, offering home, car, caravan, business, holiday, motorbike and even classic car insurance — With a dedicated team of advisors on hand at every branch to search a panel of insurers to offer quality cover at competitive rates
Contacts: SKV Communications Anoushka Done, Anna Asamoah or Mairead Rodden 0161 838 7770 www.skvcommunications.co.uk/