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Caffeine may be linked to reducing truck accidents

Written by Steve Gursten Posted June 12th, 2013

Recent study on Australian truckers revealed those who consumed caffeine on the job were 63% less likely to be in truck crashes

caffeine reducing truck accidents

Caffeine is never a substitute for proper rest, especially for truck drivers. That said, anyone who visits me in my own law office will see several coffee mugs around my own desk at any time. I rotate between espresso, coffee and then tea in the afternoons. The benefits of caffeine in increasing concentration and attention are well known. And it only makes sense that these benefits, when properly combined with proper rest, would apply to truck drivers behind the wheel as much as to a lawyer who litigates truck crashes for a living.

Trucks are enormously dangerous, and proper rest is imperative in operating a truck safely, both to protect other drivers on the road and to prevent truck crashes due to fatigued driving.

But a recent study adds that caffeine may also help. Caffeine can help reduce truck accidents when a truck driver consumes it in conjunction with having enough sleep.

I read about this study in an interesting New York Times article called Caffeine May Boost Drivers Safety.

The story says that a study done in Australia on truck drivers revealed that truckers who consumed caffeine were significantly less likely to get into truck accidents than those who did not consume caffeine.

In the Australian study, 530 truck drivers who had recently been involved in a truck accident were compared against 517 truckers who had not had been in a crash within the past year. All of the truckers were hauling at least one, but as many as three, trailers.

After selecting the truckers, researchers interviewed all the participants and gathered information about their lifestyle, health and caffeine consumption over the past month.  The data was then adjusted to account for age, driving experience, distance driven, hours of sleep, the time of day driven and various other factors.

From this, an interesting statistic emerged.  Drivers who consumed caffeine were 63% less likely to be involved in a truck accident.

You can read more about the study online at bmj.com: Use of caffeinated substances and risk of crashes in long distance drivers of commercial vehicles: case-control study.

As I said above, one of the researchers, Lisa Sharwood, issued a warning that caffeine is not a substitute for sleep:

“Clearly drivers are using caffeinated substances to help them stay awake…While this may be useful for a period of time, it should really be seen as part of drivers’ overall fatigue and health management in a quite dangerous industry. It isn’t sustainable to go without sleep. But caffeine is useful as part of a wider strategy.”

The important thing to take away from this study is that caffeine can be a useful aid for truck drivers on the road.  Consuming caffeine is something that can help make a very difficult job just a little bit easier.

However, pressing on when you are exhausted is never okay. If you are tired while on the road, please pull off of the road and rest as soon as it is safe to do so. Driving fatigued is very dangerous, and fatigue is a notorious culprit in causing truck accidents.

Again, it’s critical that this study is not understood as saying “caffeine will keep me awake and out of crashes!”  That’s not what this study proposes at all.  Rather it highlights how caffeine can be part of a truck driver’s strategy to safely operate a semi-truck.

Related information:

Jason’s Law: Making highways safer for truckers with more rest stations

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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