What is the link between caffeine and road accidents in the UAE?

Tired at the wheel? A UAE study has discovered that drivers are putting themselves in danger by relying on beverages to stay alert on the road.

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Whether you’re commuting to work or you love nothing more than a long drive, it’s easy to get burnt out when you’re the responsible driver, but relying on caffeine to stay alert is a dangerous practice.

Road safety continues to be a major issue in the UAE, with 725 people losing their life on the road in 2016, according to the Ministry of Interior and the National Transport Authority.

Poor concentration, inattentiveness and tiredness have all been linked as causes for many crashes in the UAE, and according to a new survey, drivers are heavily reliant of caffeinated drinks to stay alert behind the wheel.

The research, commissioned by tyre company Continental, showed that drivers in the UAE are three times more likely to drink coffee to top up on caffeine rather than energy drinks.

Only 16 percent of those surveyed would use energy drinks for a boost as opposed to 46 percent who would prefer to drink coffee.

In addition, 27 percent of people said not having their drink of choice left them feeling tired and unfocused, with 24 percent stating that not having their favourite beverage negatively impacted their levels of concentration.

Dr Dana Al-Hamwi, UAE-based DHA-certified clinical dietician, said: “Studies have shown that a cup of coffee or tea can be a ‘quick-fix’ for tired drivers.

“But caffeinated drinks shouldn’t be relied upon to maintain focus and concentration when on the roads.

“Caffeine has no stimulation effect on the brain. Indeed, excessive caffeine consumption can cause symptoms such as irritability, nervousness, irregular or rapid heartbeat, muscle twitching and slurred speech. At the same time, drinks that are high in sugar content can actually lead to fatigue.”

Dr Al-Hamwi suggests these ten tips to help provide drivers with a safer experience when at the wheel:

  • Drink enough water to boost the electrical energy in the brain for all body functions
  • Avoid snacks with high salt or sugar content
  • Eat regular meals and consume fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid fast food and sugary drinks
  • Avoid medications that cause drowsiness
  • Chew gum to help increase focus on the road and reduce tension
  • Smaller, healthy snacks are better than big meals
  • Have healthy snacks including carrots, celery, grapes, cheese sticks and grilled chicken strips
  • Follow your body clock and stop for a break on long trips

WORDS Colin Armstrong 

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