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Journal Article


Smith AP, Jamson SL. BMJ Open 2012; 2(4): e1047.


Centre for Occupational and Health Psychology, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.


(Copyright © 2012, BMJ Publishing Group)






OBJECTIVE: The aim of the present research was to investigate whether individuals with a common cold showed impaired ability on a simulated driving task and the ability to detect potential collisions between moving objects. DESIGN: The study involved comparison of a healthy group with a group with colds. These scores were adjusted for individual differences by collecting further data when both groups were healthy and using these scores as covariates. On both occasions, volunteers rated their symptoms and carried out a simulated driving session. On the first occasion, volunteers also carried out a collision detection task. SETTING: University of Leeds Institute for Transport Studies. SAMPLE: Twenty-five students from the University of Leeds. Ten volunteers were healthy on both occasions and 15 had a cold on the first session and were healthy on the second. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: In the collision detection task, the main outcomes were correct detections and response to a secondary identification task. In the simulated driving task, the outcomes were speed, lateral control, gap acceptance, overtaking behaviour, close following, vigilance and traffic light violations. RESULTS: Those with a cold detected fewer collisions and had a higher divided attention error than those who were healthy. Many basic driving skills were unimpaired by the illness. However, those with a cold were slower at responding to unexpected events and spent a greater percentage of time driving at a headway of <2 s. CONCLUSIONS: The finding that having a common cold is associated with reduced ability to detect collisions and respond quickly to unexpected events is of practical importance. Further research is now required to examine the efficacy of information campaigns and countermeasures such as caffeine.

Language: en


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