Wheely sick


As the UK braces itself for winter to take its toll on the health of the nation, new research out today reveals that colds and flu could put motorists across the country at risk.

Research commissioned by esure car insurance estimates that over a third (35 per cent) of UK motorists have had an accident, near miss or momentarily lost control of their car as a result of driving when ill or on cold or flu medication.

Whilst millions of people in the UK are likely to suffer from colds and flu over the coming months2, nearly a fifth of those polled (23 per cent) admitted that they have driven despite feeling too ill to do so and a worrying 82 per cent of motorists polled have taken their eyes off the road or hands off the wheel to deal with their symptoms.

According to the findings, more than a quarter (26 per cent) confessed that streaming noses and sneezing fits have distracted them at the wheel as they have tried to find a tissue or handkerchief. Furthermore, 12 per cent of those questioned have put themselves and other road users at risk by reaching for and administering cold and cough remedies whilst driving.

Almost two thirds (63 per cent) of motorists polled admitted that they had driven despite feeling tired and fatigued whilst a further 30 per cent said that their cold and flu symptoms had made them lose concentration.

The research also revealed that over a quarter (27 per cent) of UK motorists fail to check the labels of prescription and over-the-counter drugs and medicines before driving. Fewer than one in five motorists (17 per cent) would check to see if medication could make them drowsy before getting behind the wheel.

According to the research, the pressure to simply get on with life as normal is just too great for most people. Despite current concerns about the spread of illness in the workplace, a huge 85 per cent of those polled claim to just 'battle through' and continue to work and drive despite often being distracted and unfocused by their condition. Over half of those polled (55 per cent) admitted that this had been made worse by the fear of being seen to take time off during the recession.

A further 59 per cent of respondents said that their workload and personal responsibilities meant that being ill is usually 'not an option'.

Mike Pickard, Head of Risk and Underwriting at esure, said: "As we start to experience a surge in colds and flu over the coming months it's crucial that motorists check medication labels and avoid driving when they just aren't up to it. The best advice is to simply not drive when feeling unwell but if journeys are essential, have tissues to hand and take any cough sweets or non-drowsy remedies before setting off."

Regional Differences
Drivers in the South West are most concerned about being ill during the recession, with 63 per cent stating that they are less likely to take time off work to recover when ill because of this compared to 42 per cent of those in Eastern England.

The research also showed that over a fifth (22 per cent) of motorists in Greater London do not always check whether the medication they are taking causes drowsiness, compared to 11 per cent of North East drivers.

Gender Divide
Female motorists polled have been more affected by illness when driving – 36 per cent said that they had felt nauseous behind the wheel while a third (33 per cent) admitted that they had felt too ill to drive but had done so anyway. However, just 26 per cent of male drivers admitted to having had felt nauseous behind the wheel and a further 27 per cent said that they had felt too ill to drive but still turned on the ignition.

63 per cent of female motorists polled said that their work and personal responsibilities mean that being ill is not an option, while 55 per cent of male motorists said this.


esure's press contacts:

For further information please contact the esure press office at Mischief PR on 020 7100 9999 or email esure@mischiefpr.com

An ISDN line is available for radio interviews.

Notes to Editors:

  1. esure used the independent online research company FlyResearch who surveyed 1029 of the UK’s drivers, from across the country aged 18 and over, between 23rd and 28th September 2009. Five million is an estimated figure equal to 16 per cent of total UK motorists based on DfT Transport Statistics – 33,956,832 motor vehicles currently licensed 2007
  2. NHS Choices: Seasonal flu
    NHS Choices: Common cold

About esure:

esure was launched in 2001. The company offers car, home, pet and travel insurance over the internet and by phone. esure also offers car insurance cover through the brands Halifax, Sainsbury’s, Sheilas' Wheels and more recently home insurance through the Sheilas' Wheels brand.


esure has secured two of the UK's most iconic sponsorships: the ITV National and Channel 4 Weather bulletins.