The British Medical Journal recently published a study that investigated whether or not caffeine was effective in preventing trucking accidents. According to the data, the chances of being involved in a trucking accident fell by 60% when the driver had consumed caffeine, compared to those who hadn’t. Based on these statistics, however, drivers should not assume that the solution to drowsy driving is caffeine.
The researchers who conducted the study examined the data of more than 1,000 semi drivers. Around half of those drivers had been involved in accidents during the time period from December 2008 to May 2011. When asked if they consumed caffeine in order to stay awake while driving, 43 percent of respondents said they did.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 5,000 to 6,000 annual accidents involving fatalities are caused by drowsy drivers. Furthermore, the NHTSA estimates that 2 percent of accidents involving injuries and 2.5 percent of accidents involving fatalities are the result of drowsy or fatigued drivers.
This problem is especially severe in areas where truck traffic is increasing due to a demand for resources. South Dakota police officers, for example, are increasing the amount of troopers in an attempt to preserve highway safety. Captain Kevin Karley, the South Dakota Highway Patrol District Three Commander said, “Obviously because of the oil field activity in North Dakota, we’ve seen a huge increase in traffic in northwest South Dakota, U.S. Highway 85 in particular, and we want to try and stay ahead of the traffic.” Mike Carlson, a DOT Engineer, observed that since 2008, truck traffic has doubled, or even tripled in some places. He also stated, “We’ve had some accidents up there. We’ve had some fatalities up there due to people trying to get up to North Dakota as quickly as possible, driving long hours, drowsiness. It’s long open spaces.”
Drowsy driving is a serious threat to highway safety and should not be taken lightly. Trucking accident attorneys maintain that the best preventative for trucking accidents related to drowsy driving is a full night’s sleep, not caffeine.