Long, uninterrupted stretches of driving can challenge a person physically and mentally. Boredom and exhaustion set in and can increase the likelihood of a serious accident. These stretches are the working reality for many commercial truck drivers. Rules limiting the hours of service in which a truck driver can work do not ensure that the driver is well-rested or alert during a shift. A new study conducted on Long-haul truck drivers in Australia reveals that drivers who drink caffeinated beverages are less likely to have an accident than drivers who have not ingested caffeine.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one in six fatal crashes involves a drowsy driver. The NHTSA estimates that tired drivers are responsible for more than 1,500 deaths and 70,000 injuries per year. To combat fatigue, many drivers turn to coffee, energy drinks, cola or other caffeinated beverages. While some of the health effects of caffeine are disputed, it is clear that caffeine stimulates the nervous system and improves a driver’s ability to focus, at least in the short term.
Australian researchers gathered data from more than 500 truck drivers regarding several lifestyle and health issues, with caffeine consumption making up only a part of the picture. The drivers who consumed caffeine suffered accidents 63 percent less frequently than the drivers who did not. Those results were adjusted for age, driving experience and other factors. The lead author of the study was quick to point out that caffeinated beverages were not necessarily a valid answer to improving road safety.
Source: New York Times, “Caffeine May Boost Driver Safety,” by Nicholas Bakalar, 21 March 2013