Go On, Have Another Cup: Caffeine May Reduce Auto Accidents

March 22, 2013

If you like coffee as much as we do, this Friday is about to get a whole lot better. Not only does java make a great eye-opener, but according to a report in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), it could also keep you safer on the road.

That claim comes from researchers in Australia, who interviewed 1,047 long-haul truck drivers -- 530 of whom who had been involved in a collision within the previous year, and 517 who hadn't. They asked the men (well, okay: 1,039 men and eight women) various questions about their habits on and off the job: did they smoke, did they exercise regularly, did they pull over for naps when they felt tired, etc.

They also asked drivers' about their caffeine consumption and divided respondents into three groups: low, moderate, and high. Folks in the "low" group consumed under 200 mg of caffeine per day, which is roughly equivalent to two cups of coffee or a couple of energy drinks. Those who downed 200-400 mg of caffeine were put in the "moderate" group, and those above 400 mg were in the "high" group. (Presumably, no pun intended.)

Researchers acknowledge that the subjects all self-reported, meaning that they could have under- or over-estimated their habits, which they couldn't have done in a lab setting. But given that caveat, and after correcting for other factors, the scientists reached a clear conclusion:

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. [Emphasis ours]

However, to avoid being accused of promoting caffeine as a cure-all for sleep deprivation, the team added this:

While comprehensive fatigue management strategies for these drivers should consider the provision for adequate breaks and sufficient sleep and the promotion of regular exercise, the use and influence of caffeinated stimulants should be considered as an effective adjunct strategy to maintain alertness while driving.

Reading the team's full report is probably enough to cure the most egregious cases of insomnia, but if you have ample time (and coffee), dive in, then leave your thoughts in the comments below.

[via  New York Times]

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