The costs and benefits of a caffeinated driver

For many, coffee is part of a daily routine. While there are studies abound questioning the general healthiness of throwing back a cup of joe every morning, many rely on it to get their day kickstarted. But anyone with a history of coffee-drinking is likely familiar with the physical downsides that come with enjoying a fresh cup. Whether it’s the coffee crash or the “jitters,” there are plenty of ways that the caffeine boost can backfire quickly. When one is thinking of hitting the road, is it better to drink or abstain from coffee?

While some enjoy open roads on their way to their work, others might find themselves weaving in and out of honking horns, cars that “forgot” to put on their turn signals, and ever-present construction. Does navigating a commute become easier or significantly more stressful when one has heightened alertness a la caffeine?

A study with an extremist side

So while the following study takes measures a bit to the extreme it does make an interesting point. The University of South Australia brought together two groups, one who received a placebo in the form of basic gum, and the other who received gum that had 200 mg of caffeine. The basic setup of the experiment involved staying up for 50 hours. I know, rough! That 50-hour time span was broken down into three-hour increments, wherein participants underwent a driving test. For anyone who has ever had caffeine lift them out of a groggy slumber, they probably realize where this study is heading. The caffeinated participants saw better results overall.

The cost of alertness

The “jitters” were mentioned before, and for anyone who has had to deal with them while operating as a civilian, the idea of being jittery behind a wheel probably seems terrifying. David Pham from Good Rx reports on the dangers of giving someone who is already nervous caffeine. Anxiety takes many forms, and while caffeine can give that jolt to one’s energy supply, in many ways it is also like attaching electric wires to one’s anxiety symptoms. While many think of distracted driving when it comes to cellular devices, having one’s mind racing can derail focus significantly.

So, what’s the verdict?

Short answer: It depends.

Longer answer: People have different reactions to caffeine or may struggle with anxiety more than others. Point is that caffeine could be what keeps one’s mind in line with the task at hand. But, and especially when driving in areas that are unfamiliar and heavy with traffic, whatever nervousness one might feel will likely get ramped up. Making rational decisions about caffeine intake based on what you already know can at the very least help the piloting of your vehicle.

However, that doesn’t mean that others are making rational decisions for themselves. The road is never without risk, and after suffering a personal injury in a car accident, it can be wise to seek out counsel from someone who can put a case together. In injury cases, knowing the full context behind a crash can make a world of a difference.