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Truck Drivers Keep Safe with Coffee

Lisa Sharwood, PhD, of the University of Sydney in Australia and colleagues report in BMJ that drinking caffeinated substances significantly reduces long-distance truck drivers’ risk of involvement in a crash. The case-control study involved face-to-face interviews with 530 long-haul truck drivers who were involved in an accident between 2008 and 2011 in two Australian states. They were compared with 517 control drivers who had not experienced an accident in the previous 12 months.

The investigators asked the participants about their use of caffeine substances including coffee, tea, caffeine tablets, and energy drinks. They also reported details about health disorders, symptoms of sleep disorders, sleep patterns, hours of sleep, night driving schedules, distances driven, and breaks taken while on the road.

The results showed that drivers involved in accidents were younger and had less driving experience than control drivers.  More than half of the controls reported taking a caffeinated substance to stay awake, while less than a third of case drivers used these substances. Analysis of the results showed that compared with control drivers who did not take coffee or other caffeinated products, drivers who reported consuming caffeinated substances to stay awake were 63% less likely to crash. This association remained after considering various factors like age, night driving, hours of sleep, distance driven, and breaks taken.

Other substances reportedly taken by drivers (3%) to keep them awake included illegal stimulants like amphetamine (commonly known as speed), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (also called ecstasy), and cocaine. The use of these illegal stimulants was not associated with increased crash risk, but the authors emphasized that only a small number of participants reported using such substances.


Smith, M. Truckers Plus Coffee Equals Safer Roads. MedPage Today.


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