It is the answer to a trivia question – when you sneeze, you can’t keep your eyes open – but as the hayfever season begins, car owners are being warned that a runny nose and streaming eyes can affect their driving ability too.
Over two million UK motorists (seven per cent) have had an accident, near miss, or momentarily lost control of their car as a result of sneezing while driving, according to Esure, with another 670,000 accidents being caused by a passenger sneezing and surprising the driver into making a mistake.
Professor Brian Lipworth, professor of Allergy and Respiratory medicine, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, comments: "Hay fever sufferers can sneeze up to 50 times per day when they are affected by it – meaning that it’s not unlikely for a sneezing fit to happen while driving.
"When you think that sneezing once while driving at 70mph could mean travelling almost 300ft with your eyes closed, it’s clear that this is a very dangerous issue that could potentially lead to a fatal accident. Consider starting to take hay fever treatments at least two weeks in advance – so around now to combat the affects of tree pollen – and always check the label to make sure it’s non-drowsy before getting behind the wheel."
Car owners are also asked to consider the cabin of the car. Dust from the heater or air conditioner may contain pollen, and so regular vacuuming with a damp cloth across the end of the hose, which will "catch" the dirt, may help, and being careful that the air-freshener or any passengers’ perfumes or after shaves do not make the problem worse.