The driver passed out from a lack of oxygen, the Lincoln Park Police Department said

By Jason Duaine Hahn
April 24, 2020 09:18 PM
Credit: Lincoln Park Police Department

A New Jersey man passed out and crashed into a telephone pole this week, and police believe the accident could have been avoided if he hadn’t worn an N95 mask while driving.

People around the country have been asked to wear facial coverings while out in public to help stop the spread of coronavirus. But according to the Lincoln Park Police Department, wearing an N95 mask too long can cause someone to inadvertently restrict their oxygen — which is what they believed happened to a man who crashed his car on Thursday.

“The LPPD responded to a lone occupant single car motor vehicle crash yesterday,” the department said in a post to their Facebook page on Friday. “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.”

“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,” they added.

A photo included in the LPPD’s post showed a ruby red vehicle with a badly damaged front end. An additional photo from the scene showed a telephone pole snapped at its base.

The driver was transported to the hospital for a “complaint of pain” and he sustained no life-threatening injuries, the department said.

According to the California Department of Public Health, N95 respirators may make breathing more difficult and can lead to increased breathing and heart rates.

The CDPH advises people with heart and respiratory conditions to check with their doctor before using an N95 respirator. They also recommended respirators be worn no longer than eight hours and should never be used in a confined space with low oxygen levels. When used properly, the respirator masks are effective against biological particles such as pollen, mold spores, bacteria, and viruses.

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In a follow-up note to the post, the LPPD emphasized that they do not yet know if the N95 mask was the reason the driver lost consciousness.

“While we don’t know this with 100 percent 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,” the department said.

According to the department, a search of the accident scene uncovered nothing to suggest the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“It is certainly possible that some other medical reason could’ve contributed to the driver passing out,” the LPPD said. “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.”

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