The beneficial effects of caffeine on tired drivers has been called into question as experts disagree on whether or not it can make a difference to motorists’ fatigue levels.
On one side of the debate stands the government, which insists that coffee and other caffeinated drinks such as Red Bull and the like can have a beneficial effect on sleepy drivers, even going as far as to point out that the Highway Code contains a provision for combining naps with the intake of such liquids.
However, motoring accessory chain Halfords and the Institute of Advanced Motoring aren’t so sure. They think that the ‘downer’ experienced by anyone after a caffeine intake usually outweighs the high. In personal experience, it also lasts longer. This can lead to the unfortunate motorist being even more exhausted than they were in the first place.
As well as this, while he/she is in the middle of their caffeinated euphoria, they are more likely to feel irritable and aggressive, which could lead to rash behaviour and possibly more road accidents.
The two anti-caffeine lobbyists believe that excessive consumption of these liquids can lead to a state comparable to alcohol intoxication and some of those tested demonstrated a noticeable increase in reaction times.
Mark Dolphin, Halfords motoring expert, told The Scotsman:
“Caffeine drinks and coffee are often recommended as an antidote to tiredness, but the side-effects are less well promoted.
“The best advice for drivers is to make sure they have a good night’s rest before setting out on a long journey. They should stop at least every two hours, and if feeling tired, should stop and have a break.”
And Neil Greig, of the IAM, said: “We would like to see small warnings on cans informing people that the effects can be short-lived and not to consume too much of these products.
“Energy drinks are good as a quick fix, but they’re no substitute for regular breaks.
“Having a high-caffeine drink is a one-off hit – you can’t repeat it, as this type of drink does not produce the same effect in a couple of hours’ time.”
However some sleep experts say there has been some ‘fear-mongering’ on behalf of the anti-caffeine groups and argue that it is not always possible for motorists to ensure they undergo the best possible treatment for tiredness: having a good night’s sleep beforehand.
“High-sugared drinks with low caffeine do not alleviate sleepiness, as some would think; quite the contrary,” says Professor Jim Horne.
“Caffeine is effective. Breaks without a nap are not very effective remedies for sleepiness, and neither is ‘fresh air and stretching one’s legs’.”
Some others seem to be more open-minded on the issue, admitting that caffeine may temporarily alleviate tiredness and enable a driver to complete their journey.
The fact remains that in today’s fast-paced world, a sound seven or eight hours’ sleep is not always possible, and motorists need to be informed of any viable alternatives.
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Source: The Scotsman
Date Published: January 7, 2011
Author: David Brown