How Coffee Makes Driving Less Dangerous

Drivers who drink coffee to stay awake are more than twice as likely to avoid traffic accidents than caffeine abstainers, a new Australian study has found. The dangers of driving with one hand while slurping down a latte were not mentioned, however.

Coffee picture from Shutterstock

Researchers from the University of Sydney and the George Institute for Global Health carried out a study of long distance commercial vehicle drivers between 2008 and 2011 in a bid to investigate the effects of caffeine on the likelihood of a crash. The study compared 530 drivers who crashed their vehicles with 517 drivers who had not had a crash in the previous 12 months.

Drivers were asked to specify what (if any) caffeine substances they consumed for the purpose of staying awake while they were driving. Other contributing factors including age, sleep patterns, symptoms of sleep apnoea, kilometres driven, breaks taken, and night driving schedules were also taken into account.

The researchers found that drivers who consumed caffeine to help them stay awake were 63 per cent less likely to crash than drivers who did not take caffeinated substances. The majority of drivers who had not experienced a crash reported taking tea, coffee, caffeine tablets or energy drinks for the express purpose of staying awake. (3 per cent of drivers also admitted to using illegal stimulants such as amphetamine, ecstasy and cocaine.)

Consumption of caffeinated drinks can reduce the risk of crashing among long distance commercial motor vehicle drivers by 63% compared with drivers who do not report taking caffeinated stimulants for the purpose of staying awake while driving.

The study concludes that the consumption of caffeinated beverages is useful for improving alertness for a short time. However, the report also stresses that drivers shouldn't rely on caffeine as a substitute for sleep.

“Caffeine may seem effective in enhancing alertness, but it should be considered carefully in the context of a safe and healthy fatigue management strategy; energy drinks and coffee certainly don’t replace the need for sleep," notes lead researcher Lisa Sharwood.

Apart from caffeine, what are your fail-safe methods for staying alert and awake at the wheel? Share your tips in the comments section below.

Use of caffeinated substances and risk of crashes in long distance drivers of commercial vehicles: case-control study [BMJ Journal]


Comments

    So...ingesting caffeine makes you more alert, and being more alert makes you less likely to have a crash? I'm pretty sure we already knew that.

      You say caffeine makes you more 'alert' but do you know how? Most people don't. It's like saying the sky is blue, and everyone knows that - so screw any kind of implications of that.

    Highly recommend reading "the caffeine advantage" to anyone interested, there's a lot of misconceptions about caffeine.

      Wow Michael!

      First you dis the logic of the first respondant, then you put forward a book that has minimal scientific backing written by a publicist for a company selling caffeine pills. Here are some quotes of reviewers:

      "I read the book. there is no medical proof, it is merely a collection of stories of how using speed .. I mean caffeine .. helped the authors life".

      "Bennett Alan Weinberg is indeed a writer. An advertising copy writer. He heads his own advertising and public relations firm whose clients include several of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies", [Who manufacture caffeine tablets]".

      "Read "Caffeine Blues" instead. It has no vested interest in validating your addiction".

      "To those that have read this and think that caffeine is awesome, please read the other side of the story, Caffeine Blues. It provides enough medical documentation and REAL studies (like, by people that are doctors), to help change your opinion".

      BTW, I drink tea and coffee to manage my awful washed out morning feeling that my caffeine addiction causes. I then remove that feeling only with further consumption of course.

      Oh, and medically - caffeine is a stimulant, hence the temporary alertness. We all know, feel and understand that without the need for scientific put downs. And the sky is black on average for roughly half the day, mate!

      You sound like an addict seeking out stories for confirmation bias.

      Last edited 24/03/13 2:34 pm

    Well,after reading this, I will feel safe, when I see a Semi hurdling towards me on the Snowy Highway on the wrong side of the road knowing that that his Caffeine fix allow him/her to avoid KILLING me!
    It's like saying, Yes he is drunk but he has drunk a lot of coffee. So he is a Wide Awake DRUNK!.

      There's a hurdles event for trucks?!?!

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