March 21, 2013 11:30 am
For long distance heavy haul truck drivers, a cup of coffee can be more than just a pick-me-up. According to new research, drinking a caffeinated beverage significantly lowered a driver’s likelihood of getting into a wreck. During a long, monotonous and sleep-deprived drive, caffeine can make the difference between swerving off the road and holding the wheel steady.
In the new study, researchers compared 530 drivers in Australia who had crashed their vehicle during a long trip in the past five years, and 517 who had managed to reach their destinations without incident for the past 12 months. All of the drivers’ vehicles weighed at least 12 tons. The drivers who did not crash their vehicles tended to be older and drive longer distances, but also reported fewer hours of sleep per night on average. Just over 40 percent of all the drivers said they drank caffeinated beverages—including coffee, tea, energy drinks or dissolved caffeine tablets—to stay awake. And, after statistically adjusting for other factors such as age and sleep and break patterns, the authors found that the caffeinated drivers were 63 percent less likely to crash than those who did not—even if they reported being more sleep-deprived.
While caffeine does seem to help keep drivers safe, the researchers note that at some point caffeine’s magical chemical properties do wear off, and drivers need some old-fashioned, quality sleep.
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