Can Caffeine Replace Sleep for Drivers?

Coffee and Drowsy Driving accidents
Coffee Cannot Replace the Rest Required for Safe Driving

By Elisabeth Campbell

It’s Monday morning at 6:15 a.m.  The alarm is going off for the fourth time this morning after you’ve hit the snooze three times already.  You know it’s time to get up and face the world, whether you are ready or not.  You stumble through the morning routine of getting ready for work, pour the coffee from your pre-programmed coffee pot into your thermos, and you are out the door.  The drive to work is hazardous, as is any trip down the road, but here in just a few minutes, the caffeine from that first sip of coffee will begin to take effect, and you will be wide awake and alert as you drive.  Maybe you will feel alert, but can caffeine really replace a good night’s sleep for drivers?

The Science and Effect of Caffeine

Caffeine, commonly found in coffee and tea, is the world’s most popular stimulant.  When consumed, caffeine blocks the body’s A1 receptors, which makes the person feel more awake and alert, and caffeine blocks the body’s A2A receptors, increasing dopamine, and causing a stimulating effect.  Simply, caffeine makes the consumer feel more awake and alert, and helps them accomplish tasks more quickly and efficiently.

However, the effects change when caffeine is consumed regularly.  If caffeine is consumed more than about twice per week, the consumer can become addicted and the effects will be lessened.  The effect of feeling more awake and alert does not seem to change over time.  If someone drinks coffee every morning, it will help him feel more alert every morning.  However, the stimulant property of caffeine lessens with tolerance.  The consumer may feel able to accomplish tasks more efficiently, but in reality, he is prone to make more mistakes and possibly cause a collision.

How Caffeine Affects Rested Drivers

An interesting study was done by Utrecht University in the Netherlands, which tested the effects of caffeine on well-rested drivers.  In the study, 24 well-rested people drove on a monotonous highway for two hours, then had a 15-minute break in which they drank coffee.  One group had regular caffeinated coffee, and the other group had decaffeinated coffee.  Then, they drove for another two hours down the monotonous highway.

The results were clear that the group that had the caffeinated coffee objectively drove more steadily than the group with decaffeinated coffee, and the caffeinated group subjectively reported feeling more alert and in control of the vehicle than the group with decaffeinated coffee.  Certainly, the caffeine had a positive stimulating effect.  However, as is seen in the next section, the findings are different for people who are sleep deprived.

How Caffeine Affects Sleep-Deprived People

Another study was done to see how people’s performance compared with caffeine, with a nap, or with neither.  All three groups were trained in an exercise to perform a task during the morning.  In the early afternoon, one group took a 90-minute nap, while the others were doing a relaxing activity (but not allowed to sleep).  After 90 minutes, the nap group was awakened, and the other two groups were given a pill.  One group was given a caffeine pill, and the other group was given a placebo.  Then, the groups were tested on the tasks they had learned in the morning.

As you may have expected, those who took naps did much better than those who used caffeine.  This could be attributed to the finding that sleep increases memory and motor skill function.  However, the very interesting finding in this study was that those who had the placebo outperformed their caffeinated counterparts in the given tasks.  Clearly, the stimulant effect of caffeine was not beneficial to the consumers when they began to feel fatigued in the afternoon.

How Caffeine Affects Sleep-deprived Drivers

It can be deduced from the above study that caffeine is not likely to be helpful for sleep-deprived drivers.  In fact, driving without caffeine at all is probably safer, even if the driver feels sleepier.  The study that follows brings some alarming findings regarding caffeine consumption before driving.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists has said that a study showed that caffeine consumption is dangerous for sleep-deprived drivers.  The positive effects of caffeine on their alertness while driving is very temporary, and when the caffeine begins to wear off, the safety of the motorists’ driving plummets.  Actually, it was said to affect their driving in a way similar to alcohol.

Typically, when consumers begin to feel the effect of caffeine waning, their response is to consume more caffeine.  However, this is not effective.  As was discussed earlier, when caffeine is overconsumed, the consumer feels more alert, but the stimulant property cannot be repeated indefinitely.  In fact, this study showed that using caffeine for only the second time within a few hours did not provide a stimulant effect.

Conclusion

In short, that thermos of coffee in the car on Monday morning is not a good substitute for simply going to bed earlier on Sunday night.  While caffeine has a positive effect on safe driving for rested motorists, it has a significantly negative effect on sleep-deprived drivers.  The true danger in caffeine consumption in conjunction with driving is that drivers think they are more alert and able to drive more safely when they are less equipped to drive safely.

The best remedy for this safety concern is to simply get more sleep.  However, that can be difficult with the busy schedules that so many people have, so it becomes more critical to get the best sleep possible during the few hours that can be devoted to sleep.  A few tips that WebMD gives for making the most of your sleep are:

  • Putting away electronic devices and turning off screens an hour before bed
  • Making the bed as comfortable as possible
  • Keeping the room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees
  • Get regular exercise at least three hours before bed

Following tips like these will make you feel better the next morning, and make your drive to work safer with or without caffeine.

Sources:

Drowsy Driving Guide: Risks and Preventions

NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22315048

Autocar https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/industry/coffee-can-badly-affect-driving

Bulletproof Musician http://www.bulletproofmusician.com/naps-vs-coffee-which-is-a-better-choice-for-the-sleep-deprived-musician/

Examine.com https://examine.com/nutrition/science-behind-caffeine/

WebMD http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/discomfort-15/better-sleep/slideshow-sleep-tips

Ambulance Driver Falls Asleep on the Job

Collision CareJan Care Accident Injures Three People in Doddridge County:  West Virginia State Police are investigating an ambulance crash that happened in Doddridge County on the night of May 20, 2013.  A Jan-Care ambulance crashed on Route 50 near Arnold’s Creek just after 11 p.m.   The ambulance driver told police that he had fallen asleep while driving.

The driver said he was traveling toward Parkersburg when the vehicle ran off the roadway and ended up in the guard rail and a ravine, according to West Virginia State Police.  One person was flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital.  There was one patient in the ambulance, according to 911 officials. The patient and another person in the ambulance were taken to United Hospital Center for treatment.

State police have not released the names of the people involved. Their injuries didn’t appear to be life threatening.

Drowsy Driving is one of the Leading Causes of Accidents on WV Highways

Most of us realize how dangerous driving under the influence or texting while driving is, but driving while drowsy can be equally dangerous. Sleepiness can cause slower reaction times, blurred vision, lapses in judgment, and delays in processing information.

Ambulance drivers are on call 24-7 — it is no wonder that the drivers are often driving while sleep deprived.  It is especically sad when an ambulance driver whose only intent is to save lives falls asleep at the wheel and causes injury.   This is the second major Jan Care accident in this area this year.  I am confident the Jan Care company will be revising policies or will at least have a new urgency in working to prevent future accidents that could injure their staff and the patients who have been trusted to their care.

Specific At-Risk Groups for Drowsy Driving

  • Young people — especially males under age 26
  • Shift workers and people with long work hours-working the night shift increases your risk by nearly 6 times; rotating-shift workers and people working more than 60 hours a week need to be particularly careful
  • Commercial drivers-especially long-haul drivers – at least 15% of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue
  • People with undiagnosed or untreated disorders-people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have been shown to have up to a seven times increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel
  • Business travelers-who spend many hours driving or may be jet lagged

Fast Facts about Driving while Fatigued:

  • 100,000 crashes each year are caused by fatigued drivers
  • 55% of drowsy driving crashes are caused by drivers less than 25 years old
  • Being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, which is legally drunk and leaves you at equal risk for a crash
  • In 2010, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study that shows that fatigue is a factor in one in six deadly crashes; one in eight crashes resulting in hospitalization, and one in fourteen crashes in which a vehicle was towed.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 76,000 injuries, and more than 100,000 accidents every year.

Tips for avoiding becoming a drowsy driver statistic:

  • Get a good night’s sleep (seven to nine hours) before you begin your trip.
  • Plan breaks into your driving schedule; don’t be so rushed to arrive at your destination that you can’t stop for rest.
  • Stop every 100 miles or two hours for a walk, run, snack, or drink.
  • Bring a buddy who can share the driving.
  • If you think you could fall asleep, pull over and take a 15-20 minute nap — does not apply to ambulance drivers!
  • Avoid driving at times you would normally be asleep — also does not apply to ambulance drivers.
  • Avoid alcohol and medicines that cause drowsiness.
  • Caffeine can increase alertness for several hours, but you will still need adequate rest if you want to prevent fatigue related errors.

Warning Signs that it is time to pull over:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, heavy eyelids.
  • Trouble keeping your head up.
  • Drifting onto rumble strips, swerving in your lane.
  • Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven.
  • Missed exits or traffic signs.
  • Repeated yawning.
  • Feeling restless or irritable.

Robinette Legal Group, PLLC in Morgantown, WV. You may not have been able to avoid the collision that caused your injuries, but you can avoid the unnecessary pitfalls of dealing with the insurance adjusters who are motivated and trained to devalue your claim, if not destroy it altogether.

Call our office today for free books for WV accident victims: Collision Care: West Virginia Auto Collision Guide, and Righting the Wrong, West Virginia Serious Injury Guide:  304-594-1800.

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Drowsy Driving Prevention Week November 3-10, 2013

In an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to save lives, the National Sleep Foundation has declared November 3-10, 2013 to be Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®.  Most of us realize how dangerous driving under the influence or texting while driving is, but driving while drowsy can be equally dangerous. Sleepiness can cause slower reaction times, blurred vision, lapses in judgment, and delays in processing information.

FedEx Truck Accident in West Virginia

In October, 2012 near Morgantown, WV a FedEx truck was traveling north in the southbound lanes shortly before 1 a.m. when the driver tried to make a U-turn to correct his direction. FedEx Truck Crash on I-79 The FedEx driver caused a truck accident when he struck a tractor-trailer which then crossed the median into the northbound lanes and crashed through a guardrail on the east edge of the road.  A passenger car traveling ahead of the tractor-trailer ran off the west edge of I-79 south, coming to rest against a guardrail.  Amazingly, no one was killed or seriously injured.  Three people were taken to the hospital, treated, and released.  The FedEx driver was from North Dakota and the semi-truck driver was from Arizona.

Early Morning Collision in Huntington WV:

More recently,  The Huntington Police Department is investigating a crash involving two tractor-trailer trucks which shut down all westbound lanes of Interstate 64 in Huntington.  Dispatchers received word of the crash at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday, October 17, 2013.

The crash involved a box truck owned by the U.S. Mail and a tanker truck carrying an unspecified substance. Dispatchers said the box truck overturned due to the crash’s impact and was leaking fuel from its tanks. One of the trucks also hit a bridge and knocked off a chunk of its concrete wall.
The accident happened at the 9.5-mile marker, located just east of the 5th Street Road exit in Huntington. Officials were diverting westbound traffic off the Hal Greer and 29th Street exits.
Thankfully, there were no reported injuries, and unlike a May 2013 accident on I-64 in Kentucky involving a mail truck which caught fire as a result of a fuel leak, the contents of this US Postal Service truck was not destroyed and was transferred to another truck by Postal Service crews.

 

All of these truck drivers illustrate the type of drivers that are most at risk for driving error due to drowsiness.  Before we launch into the fall and winter holidays, we need to consider the potential impact of driving while exhausted could have on our own safety, our families, and other drivers sharing the road with us.

Specific At-Risk Groups for Drowsy Driving

  • Young people-especially males under age 26
  • Shift workers and people with long work hours-working the night shift increases your risk by nearly 6 times; rotating-shift workers and people working more than 60 hours a week need to be particularly careful
  • Commercial drivers-especially long-haul drivers – at least 15% of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue
  • People with undiagnosed or untreated disorders-people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have been shown to have up to a seven times increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel
  • Business travelers-who spend many hours driving or may be jet lagged

Fast Facts about Driving while Fatigued:

  • 100,000 crashes each year are caused by fatigued drivers
  • 55% of drowsy driving crashes are caused by drivers less than 25 years old
  • Being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, which is legally drunk and leaves you at equal risk for a crash
  • In 2010, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study that shows that fatigue is a factor in one in six deadly crashes; one in eight crashes resulting in hospitalization, and one in fourteen crashes in which a vehicle was towed.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 76,000 injuries, and more than 100,000 accidents every year.

Tips for avoiding becoming a drowsy driver statistic:

  • Get a good night’s sleep (seven to nine hours) before you begin your trip.
  • Plan breaks into your driving schedule; don’t be so rushed to arrive at your destination that you can’t stop for rest.
  • Stop every 100 miles or two hours for a walk, run, snack, or drink.
  • Bring a buddy who can share the driving.
  • If you think you could fall asleep, pull over and take a 15-20 minute nap.
  • Avoid driving at times you would normally be asleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and medicines that cause drowsiness.
  • Caffeine can increase alertness for several hours, but you will still need adequate rest if you want to prevent fatigue related errors.

Warning Signs that it is time to pull over:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, heavy eyelids.
  • Trouble keeping your head up.
  • Drifting onto rumble strips, swerving in your lane.
  • Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven.
  • Missed exits or traffic signs.
  • Repeated yawning.
  • Feeling restless or irritable.

Posted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC in Morgantown, WV.  You may not have been able to avoid the collision that caused your injuries, but you can avoid the unnecessary pitfalls of dealing with the insurance adjusters who are motivated and trained to devalue your claim, if not destroy it altogether.

Call our office today for free books for WV accident victims: Collision Care: West Virginia Auto Collision Guide, and Righting the Wrong, West Virginia Serious Injury Guide. 

304-594-1800 

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Drowsy Driving Prevention Week November 12-18, 2012

In an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes and to save lives, the National Sleep Foundation is declaring November 12-18, 2012 to be Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®.  Most of us realize how dangerous driving under the influence or texting while driving is, but driving while drowsy can be equally dangerous. Sleepiness can cause slower reaction times, blurred vision, lapses in judgment, and delays in processing information.

FedEx Truck Accident in West Virginia

In October, 2012 near Morgantown, WV a FedEx truck was traveling north in the southbound lanes shortly before 1 a.m. when the driver tried to make a U-turn to correct his direction.  The FedEx driver caused a truck accident when he struck a tractor-trailer which then crossed the median into the northbound lanes and crashed through a guardrail on the east edge of the road.  A passenger car traveling ahead of the tractor-trailer ran off the west edge of I-79 south, coming to rest against a guardrail.  Amazingly, no one was killed or seriously injured.  Three people were taken to the hospital, treated, and released.  The FedEx driver was from North Dakota and the semi-truck driver was from Arizona.

At least two of these drivers illustrate the types of drivers that are most at risk for driving error due to drowsiness.  Before we launch into the fall and winter holidays, we need to consider the potential impact of driving while exhausted could have on our own safety, our families, and other drivers sharing the road with us.

Specific At-Risk Groups for Drowsy Driving

  • Young people-especially males under age 26
  • Shift workers and people with long work hours-working the night shift increases your risk by nearly 6 times; rotating-shift workers and people working more than 60 hours a week need to be particularly careful
  • Commercial drivers-especially long-haul drivers – at least 15% of all heavy truck crashes involve fatigue
  • People with undiagnosed or untreated disorders-people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea have been shown to have up to a seven times increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel
  • Business travelers-who spend many hours driving or may be jet lagged

Fast Facts about Driving while Fatigued:

  • 100,000 crashes each year are caused by fatigued drivers
  • 55% of drowsy driving crashes are caused by drivers less than 25 years old
  • Being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, which is legally drunk and leaves you at equal risk for a crash
  • In 2010, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a study that shows that fatigue is a factor in one in six deadly crashes; one in eight crashes resulting in hospitalization, and one in fourteen crashes in which a vehicle was towed.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 76,000 injuries, and more than 100,000 accidents every year.

Tips for avoiding becoming a drowsy driver statistic:

  • Get a good night’s sleep (seven to nine hours) before you begin your trip.
  • Plan breaks into your driving schedule; don’t be so rushed to arrive at your destination that you can’t stop for rest.
  • Stop every 100 miles or two hours for a walk, run, snack, or drink.
  • Bring a buddy who can share the driving.
  • If you think you could fall asleep, pull over and take a 15-20 minute nap.
  • Avoid driving at times you would normally be asleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and medicines that cause drowsiness.
  • Caffeine can increase alertness for several hours, but you will still need adequate rest if you want to prevent fatigue related errors.

Warning Signs that it is time to pull over:

  • Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, heavy eyelids.
  • Trouble keeping your head up.
  • Drifting onto rumble strips, swerving in your lane.
  • Inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven.
  • Missed exits or traffic signs.
  • Repeated yawning.
  • Feeling restless or irritable.

Robinette Legal Group, PLLC in Morgantown, WV.  You may not have been able to avoid the collision that caused your injuries, but you can avoid the unnecessary pitfalls of dealing with the insurance adjusters who are motivated and trained to devalue your claim, if not destroy it altogether.

Call our office today for free books for WV accident victims: Collision Care: West Virginia Auto Collision Guide, and Righting the Wrong, West Virginia Serious Injury Guide. 

304-594-1800