Dieting Study: Caffeine Won’t Keep You Awake Behind the Wheel

Have you ever driven when you’re tired? Ever fallen asleep at the wheel? Well, you’re not alone. A new dieting study shows about 4 percent of Americans admit they have fallen asleep while driving.

Actual Statistics Could Be Higher

Study: Caffeine won't keep you awake to drive.
Dieting Study: Caffeine won’t keep you awake to drive.

Researchers say the number of sleepy drivers may be much higher than 4 percent, because not all drivers actually remember falling asleep.

According to the NY Times, an estimated 730 deadly motor vehicle accidents involved a driver who was either sleepy or dozing off in 2009, and an additional 30,000 crashes that were nonfatal involved a drowsy driver.

Anne G. Wheaton, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention led the study of sleep deprived drivers and says people getting less than six hours of sleep at night are at a higher risk of falling asleep on the road.

“It doesn’t mean that you put your head down and start snoring,” she said. “You might just close your eyes for a second or two. One of the warning signs is when you have trouble remembering the last few miles that you’ve driven, or when you miss an exit. It could be because you actually fell asleep for a second.”

Researchers say driving while drowsy is like drinking and driving.

“If you’re awake for 24 hours, that’s the blood alcohol equivalent of 0.1 percent, which is higher than the legal limit in all the states,” Dr. Wheaton said.

Tips to Stay Awake

Researchers say a quick nap is the best way to fight drowsiness on the road.
Researchers say a quick nap is the best way to fight drowsiness on the road.

While many drivers think a cup of coffee is the answer, Wheaton says caffeine can’t be counted on.

“The safest thing is to look for a place that’s secure where you can take a quick nap,” she said. “I’ve done it myself where I had just taken a red eye and found myself starting to fall asleep before I even left the airport. So I pulled into a gas station and took a nap in their parking lot. It doesn’t take very long.”

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