Caffeine consumption reduces likelihood of crashing by 63% in long distance, heavy vehicle drivers

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A new study1 published by the BMJ, suggests that drinking caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and energy drinks or taking caffeine tablets “can significantly protect against crash risk” for long distance, heavy vehicle drivers.

The case control study, conducted by the George Institute for Global Health in New South Wales, Australia, assessed 530 long distance drivers who had recently been involved in crashes and 517 control drivers who had not crashed whilst driving a commercial vehicle.

Researchers found that 43% of drivers reported consuming caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks or taking caffeine tablets, to stay awake. After adjusting for confounding factors, including age, sleep patterns, driving distance and number of breaks, drivers who consumed these products for this purpose had a 63% reduced likelihood of crashing.

The authors conclude that caffeinated substances are associated with a reduced risk of crashing for long distance commercial motor vehicle drivers. While comprehensive mandated strategies for fatigue management remain a priority, the use of caffeinated substances could be a useful adjunct strategy in the maintenance of alertness while driving.

Previous research
The European Food Safety Authority in its evaluations of the available science concluded that caffeine increases both selective attention (focussing on the relevant stimulus) and sustained attention (maintenance of focused attention over an extended period of time)2.

A 75mg serving of caffeine, the amount found in a regular cup of coffee, has been demonstrated to increase attention2.

For more information on coffee, caffeine and alertness, click here.

1 Sharwood LN et al. (2013) Use of caffeinated substances and risk of crashes in long distance drivers of commercial vehicles: case control study. BMJ (printed ahead of publication).

2 EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (2011). Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to caffeine and increased fat oxidation leading to a reduction in body fat mass (ID 735, 1484), increased energy expenditure leading to a reduction in body weight (ID 1487), increased alertness (ID 736, 1101, 1187, 1485, 1491, 2063, 2103) and increased attention (ID 736, 1485, 1491, 2375) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/20061. EFSA Journal. 9(4):2054.

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