Wearing a Mask While Driving Leads to More Accidents, Higher Insurance Rates

Last Updated on December 31, 2020

Many people wear masks while driving.

However, health and safety experts recommend againswearing mask while drivingt wearing masks while driving because it leads to more accidents and higher insurance rates.

A year ago, it was unusual to see someone wearing a mask while driving. Today, thanks to COVID-19, it’s common.

Maybe you’re extra cautious while driving around town. Maybe you have strangers in your vehicle. Maybe you want to limit exposure and practice safe social distancing.

Whatever the situation may be, wearing a mask while driving could protect you and people around you – but it could also increase insurance rates.

In fact, the CDC does not recommend wearing masks while driving, especially when driving alone – although they do recommend wearing a mask in public settings where it’s difficult to maintain social distancing.

Today, we’re explaining how wearing a mask while driving could increase insurance rates.

Masks Could Increase the Risk of a Collision

Health experts recommend wearing masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, some health and safety experts now tell drivers to rethink wearing masks while driving.

Wearing a mask while driving could increase the risk of a collision.

In fact, one recent collision in New Jersey was blamed on “excessive” medical mask wearing, causing the driver to pass out and crash.

Other reasons masks increase the risk of a collision include: 

  • Adjusting your mask while driving is distracting
  • Masks can slip and block vision or breathing, increasing the risk of an accident
  • Masks can create fog on glasses, affecting eyesight and reducing vision
  • Masks can impact breathing, potentially causing you to pass out

All of these situations increase the risk of an accident. A single at-fault accident raises insurance rates by 40% to 80%, which means masks could indirectly raise insurance premiums.

Adjusting a Mask While Driving is Distracting

Masks can be uncomfortable – especially if your mask is ill-fitting or poorly designed. When your mask is uncomfortable, you naturally adjust it. You might tug your mask in different directions to change how it fits on your face. These adjustments are distracting.

Masks Can Slip and Block Vision

One 2016 study found that wearing a respirator didn’t lead to significantly lower levels of oxygen, nor did it impact the ability to complete a task, although it did make it harder to recognize dangers coming from multiple directions. The chance of a mask blocking vision increases if your mask slips, fits poorly, or breaks while driving.

Masks Can Create Fog on Glasses

Most people have experienced foggy glasses at some point during the pandemic. Whether you wear eyeglasses or sunglasses, you’ve probably experienced foggy lenses from wearing a mask. It takes just a few seconds of impaired vision to cause an accident. If your glasses get foggy at the wrong time, it could lead to an accident.

Masks Can Impact Breathing

Studies show that masks do not significantly reduce oxygen intake to a point where it impedes performance. However, if you feel anxious while wearing a mask, or if you’re wearing multiple masks improperly, then it’s possible your mask impacts breathing, reducing oxygen intake. One New Jersey driver passed out and crashed while driving after wearing an N95 medical mask for several hours and passing out “due to insufficient oxygen intake/excessive carbon dioxide intake,” according to the report.

Should You Wear a Mask While Driving?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend wearing a mask while driving, although there are several exceptions to that rule.

It is not necessary to wear a mask while driving if you are driving alone, according to the CDC. You should already be at least six feet apart from surrounding cars and drivers, so it’s not necessary to wear a mask while driving alone.

It may also be unnecessary to wear a mask if driving with other people – as long as those people are in your bubble or live at the same residence as you.

If you have been quarantined together with your husband, for example, then you should both be able to safely drive without a mask with minimal risk of transmission.

Reasons to Wear a Mask While Driving

The CDC recommends against wearing a mask while driving, although there are several exceptions to that rule:

  • If you’re in the car with people who do not reside with you, are not in your bubble, or have mingled unsafely with other people in recent days
  • If you are sick and have other people in your vehicle
  • If you are riding in an Uber, Lyft, taxi, or any other rideshare or driving service
  • If you are anxious about being in public without a mask, or if wearing a mask comforts you in any way
  • If you are traveling a short distance by car and don’t want to take your mask off and put it back on again

Wearing a Mask Could Make You a Worse Driver

In 2016, researchers published a study in the Journal of Biological Engineering showing that respirator masks could protect your health – but they also negatively impact performance.

Researchers analyzed the impact of respirator masks and found they were effective for removing airborne contaminants and protecting individuals from pollutants.

However, researchers also found that respirators led to negative effects on work performance.

Researchers found that masks did not impact someone’s ability to complete a task, although they did impact the ability to recognize dangers coming from multiple directions.

Based on the results of that study, masks could reduce your ability to check your blind spot, be aware of your surroundings, or track vehicles around you.

How to Safely Wear a Mask While Driving

To safely wear a mask while driving, follow these tips:

Adjust the Fit: Don’t slap a mask on your face and start driving immediately. Instead, spend a few minutes adjusting the fit of your mask.

Turn your Head to Check Mask Performance: You don’t just stare straight ahead while driving. You turn your neck and check your blind spots, twisting your neck and moving your mask. Test the fit of your mask. While wearing your mask, turn your head around to make sure it fits comfortably on your face.

Avoid Wearing a Mask While Driving Unless You Need To: Wearing a mask while driving could increase the risk of an accident. Although there are exceptions, the CDC does not recommend wearing a mask while driving.

Yes, Wearing a Mask Could Lead to Higher Insurance Premiums

Masks could impede your vision or reduce oxygen levels – especially when worn incorrectly.

It takes just a momentary lapse in judgment to cause an accident. Your glasses might fog before a light turns red, for example, causing the car in front to slam on the brakes.

Or, your mask could make it difficult to see someone in your blind spot, causing you to make an unsafe turn into their lane.

If you cause an accident, then your insurance company will raise premiums by 40% to 60%.

Although some drivers have accident forgiveness, most at-fault accidents will lead to significantly higher insurance premiums for 3 to 5 years.

Final Word on Masking While Driving

The CDC does not recommend wearing a mask while driving. If you decide to wear a mask while driving, it could increase the risk of an at-fault accident, which could raise insurance rates.

Consider the situation before wearing a mask while driving. You should wear a mask while riding in a car with strangers, for example, or with anyone who’s sick.

However, consider paying extra attention to the road when wearing a mask and driving. Improper mask usage while driving could increase the risk of an accident and lead to higher insurance rates.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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