BWO Trial Lawyers White

Sneezing While Driving: Managing Unexpected Distractions


DUI Specialists

Discover the unexpected risks of sneezing while driving and learn how Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien can assist if you’ve been in an accident due to this overlooked distraction.

Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien have been a trusted law firm serving Missourians for over 40 years.

  • Committed to always treating clients with courtesy & respect
  • Benefit from the unrivaled experience of our statewide team of lawyers
  • Trust the proven success we’ve delivered to clients for decades

Sneezing, an automatic response to nasal irritants, is one such action that momentarily diverts attention from the road. When drivers feel the tickling onset of a sneeze, our eyes may involuntarily close, and our focus falters, even if just for a second. The consequences of such a brief lapse, however, can be far-reaching, highlighting the fine line between safe driving and the risk of automobile accidents.

When we sneeze, our eyes close for approximately 0.5 seconds, and if we’re traveling at 60 mph, this means we’re essentially driving blind for more than 44 feet. In those moments, anything can happen—an unforeseen swerve, a sudden stop from the car ahead, or an unexpected obstacle in the lane.

The Impact of Sneezing on Driver’s Attention

Sneezing while driving is an often underestimated form of distracted driving. During a sneeze, our eyes instinctively close, typically for about half a second. At a speed of 60 miles per hour, this means you could travel 44 feet with your eyes entirely off the road.

Moreover, sneezing can cause the following involuntary reaction:

  • Jerking of the steering wheel
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Hands coming off the steering wheel

Reactions to sneezes vary. Some of us have a single, quick sneeze, while others may experience a sneezing fit. Each sneeze could potentially contribute to dangerous driving conditions—especially if those sneezes follow one after another, continuously pulling our focus and control away from the task of driving.

Reports indicate that sneezing fits have led to accidents on the roads, a fact that highlights the potential severity of the situation. For example, a sneezing fit was cited as the cause of an accident on 50 Highway in Warrensburg.

Legal Perspective on Sneezing and Driving

Even the most common of human actions, like sneezing, can have complex implications when performed behind the wheel. A sneeze, innocuous as it may seem, becomes a matter of legal interest when it interferes with driving. Though not specifically mentioned in most traffic laws, sneezing falls into a gray area when it comes to distracted driving.

Negligent driving broadly encapsulates any form of driving behavior that diverges from the attentiveness and care expected of a responsible driver. While a single sneeze is not unlawful, a sneezing fit could breach this standard if it results in an accident.

In the eyes of the law, negligence occurs when a driver fails to act with the level of care that a reasonable person would exercise under similar circumstances. If sneezing impairs a driver’s attention to the point of causing a crash, this could be seen as negligent behavior.

While sneezing is a natural reflex, it embodies all three forms of distracted driving identified by traffic safety experts:

  • Visual impairment: Eyes close involuntarily during a sneeze.
  • Manual interference: We often use our hands to cover our mouths.
  • Cognitive distraction: The sensation can momentarily distract us from the road.

If you are seeking legal recourse after an accident involving a potentially distracted driver, you could consult our legal team at Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien, where we might explore whether the incident aligns with the established criteria of reckless or distracted driving.

What to Do If You’re in an Accident Caused by Sneezing

Sneezing can be a minor inconvenience, but behind the wheel, it may lead to major accidents. We’ll discuss the immediate steps to manage the situation and the role of legal aid in securing fair compensation.

If you find yourself in an accident due to a sneeze-induced distraction, safety is paramount. First, assess if you or any passengers have sustained injuries. If the situation allows, move your vehicle to a safe area to avoid further hazards. Activate your hazard lights and use flares or emergency triangles, if available, to alert oncoming traffic.

It’s also crucial to contact law enforcement promptly. A police report is an essential document that details the incident, which can be pivotal when filing an insurance claim. During this period, avoid making remarks that imply fault, as these can be used against you during the claims process.

When documenting the accident, be thorough. Gather information from all parties involved, including names, contact details, insurance information, and vehicle registration numbers. Photograph the scene from various angles, capturing road conditions, traffic signs, and damage to all vehicles involved.

Reporting the incident to your insurance company is a necessary step. Be factual about the event and provide them with the police report and photographic evidence. Document any medical evaluations as well as if injuries occurred due to the accident. Your insurance company may contact the other driver’s insurer on your behalf. If not, you or your attorney can do so.

How Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien Can Help

Our firm understands the intricacies of car accidents and their causes in St. Louis, including those as seemingly benign as sneezing. We can assist by analyzing your accident and building your case. We can help determine the best course of action for seeking compensation.

If you’ve been injured, our legal team works diligently to ensure your rights are protected. We advocate for adequate compensation for any losses and injuries you’ve experienced. Our history of handling similar cases allows us to effectively navigate the claims process and overcome challenges presented by insurance companies.

To discuss your case, reach out to us for a comprehensive review. We’ll evaluate your specific situation and provide the guidance necessary to navigate the aftermath of an accident caused by sneezing.

Contact Us Today

We acknowledge that uncontrollable reflexes such as sneezing pose a challenge while driving. It momentarily impairs crucial faculties like vision and concentration, elevating the risk of accidents. Awareness of the impact a simple sneeze can have is vital—it causes a brief yet significant distraction similar to other in-car activities.

If a sneeze does lead to an unfortunate event on the road, legal representation becomes imperative. Our attorneys at Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien have seen the consequences of split-second distractions. Leveraging our experience can be a crucial step in navigating the aftermath of any driving mishap.

Contact us and schedule a free consultation.

We can help! FREE Injury and Work Comp Consultations.


Email Us


Contact Us

LP MakePayment NO AMEX