Caffeine Beats Music for Driving Alertness

For many, drowsiness or fatigue when behind the wheel is combated by drinking caffeinated beverages or by listening to music.

New research evaluates which method, if either, can successfully combat driver fatigue.

Human factors/ergonomics researchers ShiXu Liu, Shengji Yao, Ph.D., and Allan Spence, Ph.D., designed a simulated driving study that measured driver fatigue levels against the use of caffeine, music, or no stimulant. Their study is to be presented at the HFES 2014 Annual Meeting in Chicago in October.

Twenty participants completed three 120-minute driving sessions over a three-day span at the same time each day, then scored their fatigue levels on a questionnaire.

Results indicated that drivers who used either caffeine or music as a stimulant felt significantly less tired than those who did not.

The researchers noted, however, that those who drank a caffeinated beverage to stay awake performed their driving tasks much better than those who listened to music or those in the control group.

“Even though both caffeine and music keep drivers feeling more awake, caffeine also helps them maintain good driving performance,” said Liu.

“Music, on the other hand, can distract drivers, which may explain why driving performance is not significantly improved when it is used as a fatigue countermeasure.”

Source: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

Person drinking coffee while driving photo by shutterstock.