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2015-01-08 11:55

TAKE A BREAK: A long journeys can lead to driver fatigue. Take a break every two hours or 200km and, research claims, down an energy drink. Image: Shutterstock

LONDON, England - Research done at Loughborough University in England has revealed that people falling asleep at the wheel are responsible for one in five deaths on motorways and main roads", reports Arrive Alive.

Professor Jim Horne, head of the university's Sleep Research Laboratory, said: "Those most at risk are young people, who tend to stay up late, sleep too little and drive at night. Other lifestyle groups at risk include shift-workers, emergency services and nurses in whose hands we often place our own lives, long-distance truckers, coach drivers and - ironically - even driving instructors."


Horne added: "Previous research has identified that coffee can help but, as there are too many variables in the quality and preparation of coffee, advising drivers to drink coffee as a stimulant can give them a false sense of security."

The sleep lab investigated the effects of caffeine-rich energy drinks on tired drivers as an  alternative to coffee. Groups of 12 volunteers were chosen from, the university claims, the population most at risk - young adults, especially men younger than 30.

Participants were tested in a car simulator replicating freeway driving conditions, bends, hard shoulders, rumble strips, lane-drifting and monotonous dual carriageways. Volunteers verbally reported their fatigue levels at set intervals through a nine-point scale from "extremely alert" to "very sleepy".

After a prolonged period they were given "energy drinks" with neither the driver nor the tester knowing the exact formula of each. The active ingredients (caffeine, taurine and glucuronolactone) were removed from the control drink to provide only the taste of the drink.

The results of those using the energy drink were telling...


Half an hour after the ingestion of the energy drink (250ml) there was a marked decline in the number of incidents associated with sleepiness; the improvement lasted for 90 minutes. When 500ml was drunk the sleepy errors were "virtually eliminated for 90 minutes and substantially reduced for the rest of the drive".

The Sleep Research Laboratory reported that its results were encouraging, especially considering the growing number of drowsy drivers.

South Africa's Arrive Alive reported: "Many drivers believe they can easily overcome sleepiness and continue with their journey. Often they succeed and reach their destination... sometimes they don’t. Even a few seconds doze at the wheel can kill."

Horne said driver drowsiness was avoidable. The tests showed drivers should keep a few cans of a "functional energy drink" in their vehicle and drink them while taking a break from driving.

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