Use of caffeinated substances and risk of crashes in long distance drivers of commercial vehicles: case-control study

BMJ 2013;346:f1140
[Free full-text BMJ article PDF | PubMed ® abstract]

Research

Use of caffeinated substances and risk of crashes in long distance drivers of commercial vehicles: case-control study

Lisa N Sharwood, research scholar, Jane Elkington, project manager, Lynn Meuleners, director, et al.

Correspondence to: L N Sharwood, 98 Bunnerong Rd, Pagewood, NSW 2035 Australia lsharwood@george.org.au

Abstract

Objective To determine whether there is an association between use of substances that contain caffeine and the risk of crash in long distance commercial vehicle drivers.

Design Case-control study.

Setting New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australia (WA), Australia.

Participants 530 long distance drivers of commercial vehicles who were recently involved in a crash attended by police (cases) and 517 control drivers who had not had a crash while driving a commercial vehicle in the past 12 months.

Main outcome measure The likelihood of a crash associated with the use of substances containing caffeine after adjustment for factors including age, health disorders, sleep patterns, and symptoms of sleep disorders as well as exposures such as kilometres driven, hours slept, breaks taken, and night driving schedules.

Results Forty three percent of drivers reported consuming substances containing caffeine, such as tea, coffee, caffeine tablets, or energy drinks for the express purpose of staying awake. Only 3% reported using illegal stimulants such as amphetamine ( €œspeed €); 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy); and cocaine. After adjustment for potential confounders, drivers who consumed caffeinated substances for this purpose had a 63% reduced likelihood of crashing (odds ratio 0.37, 95% confidence interval 0.27 to 0.50) compared with drivers who did not take caffeinated substances.

Conclusions 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.

© 2013 BMJ Publishing Group Ltd

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