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Police Suggest Driver Who Crashed While Wearing N95 Mask Might Have Passed Out
Close-up of N95 respirator mask during an outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus, San Francisco, California, March 30, 2020. (Photo by
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

You’ve seen them out there. People are driving around in their cars wearing protective face masks – sometimes even when they’re alone in the car.

Note to those motorists: Maybe not a good call.

A driver in Lincoln Park, NJ, crashed their car into a pole while wearing an N95 mask, which may have restricted their oxygen intake, causing them to pass out, suggested the Lincoln Park Police Department before later amending their statement.

“The crash is believed to have resulted from the driver wearing an N95 mask for several hours and subsequently passing out behind the wheel due to insufficient oxygen intake/excessive carbon dioxide intake,” according to a Lincoln Park Police Department (LPPD) statement on Facebook.

“Motorists and the public alike are reminded that while masks should be used in public settings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, they are not necessary outdoors when social distancing can be maintained, and especially not necessary when driving a vehicle with no additional occupants,” the LPPD said.

After the story went viral, the police department amended its original post.

“Considering the overwhelming response this post has received, the following should be said. NJ residents should absolutely continue to follow the directives regarding face coverings put in place by our Governor. As it relates to this specific incident, we reiterate that police officers are not physicians and do not know the medical history of every person we encounter,” the LPPD wrote.

“We conduct accident scene investigations using training, experience and observations at the scene to determine a cause,” said the LPPD. “It was stated in the original post that we ‘believed’ the excessive wearing of an N95 mask was a contributing factor to this accident. While we don’t know this with 100% certainty, we do know that the driver had been wearing an N95 mask inside the vehicle for several hours and ultimately passed out while operating the vehicle.”

“We also know that nothing was uncovered at the accident scene that would suggest that the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. All this being said, it is certainly possible that some other medical reason could’ve contributed to the driver passing out. We are not trying to cause public alarm or suggest wearing an N95 mask is unsafe. The original point of the post was to state that in most cases, the wearing of this type of mask while operating a vehicle with no other occupants is unnecessary,” the LPPD said.

The name of the driver was not released, nor his or her condition after the accident.

As you no doubt know by now, wearing a mask does make breathing a bit more difficult.

“A person wearing any kind of mask faces breathing resistance as air filters through the device, making the wearer work harder to inhale than he would without the mask,” Akshita Nagpal wrote in a Scroll piece about masks.

“This can have several adverse physiological effects when the mask is worn for long periods of time,” she wrote. “Moreover, carbon dioxide that is exhaled can get trapped in the chamber of the mask the re-enter the body each time the mask user inhales. This delivers less oxygen into the body than when the person is not wearing a mask.”

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