NJ Police: Excessive Wearing of Mask May Have Contributed to Driver Crashing Car

April 26, 2020 Updated: April 26, 2020

New Jersey Police on April 24 said a driver who fainted and crashed their car into a power pole may have done so due to “excessive wearing” of an N95 mask.

In a statement on Facebook, the Lincoln Park Police Department said that while it did not know “with 100% certainty,” that the prolonged wearing of the N95 mask was a contributing factor to this accident, “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.”

On April 23, Lincoln Park Police Department said it responded to a lone occupant single car motor vehicle crash. Photos of the accident posted on the LPPD Facebook page showed a red vehicle being cleared from the area after crashing head-on into a wooden pole. Officials did not specify the exact location of where the crash occurred and did not identify the driver of the vehicle.

“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,” LPPD said, adding that the driver was taken to a hospital where they were treated for non-life threatening injuries and are expected to recover.

Officials also noted that there was “nothing uncovered at the accident scene that would suggest the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” but that “it is certainly possible that some other medical reason could’ve contributed to the driver passing out.”

Due to the overwhelming response to the incident and their initial post, LPPD sought to clarify it’s original report in an amended version, in which it said it is “not trying to cause public alarm or suggest wearing an N95 mask is unsafe,” but that “in most cases, the wearing of this type of mask while operating a vehicle with no other occupants is unnecessary.”

“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,” they said.

LPPD urged motorists and the general public to continue to wear masks in public settings to help prevent the spread of CCP virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, but said “they are not necessary outdoors when social distancing can be maintained, and especially not necessary when driving a vehicle with no additional occupants.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19, as these are “critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders.”

It notes that people who suffer from chronic respiratory, cardiac, or other medical conditions that make breathing difficult should also check with their health care provider before using an N95 respirator because the N95 respirator can make it more difficult for the wearer to breathe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises wearing face cloth coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. However, face coverings should not be worn by children under the age of two, or by anyone who has trouble breathing, is in incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.