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Caffeine Gum More Effective than Coffee in Combating Driver Fatigue

May 24, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Since Memorial Day kicks off the beginning of the summer vacation season, which according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the deadliest time of year for drivers, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) is warning drivers to stay alert at the wheel.While drivers often turn to coffee to help them stay alert, some experts recommend caffeine gum instead. Last year, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research tested Stay Alert caffeine gum as a countermeasure for fatigue, according to ARNEWS, the Army News Service. Each piece of Stay Alert chewing gum has 100 mg of caffeine. That's about the amount found in a six-ounce cup of coffee."Because it's chewed, it delivers caffeine to the body four to five times faster than a liquid or pill because it's absorbed through tissues in the mouth --- not the gut, like in traditional formulations," Dr. Gary Kamimori of the Department of Behavioral Biology at Walter Reed told ARNEWS.Of course, the best course of action is to get enough sleep in the first place. "Many people fail to realize just how much sleep impacts alertness on the roadways. Not getting a good night's sleep and driving can have deadly consequences," said Richard Gelula, the National Sleep Foundation's CEO. "In fact, drowsy driving may be just as dangerous as drunk driving because sleepiness results in slower reaction times and performance, reduced judgment and vision, delayed information processing and short-term memory formation, and even increased anger and moodiness."According to NHTSA, driver fatigue is the direct cause of 100,000 car crashes each year, and the results are both deadly and costly: NHTSA estimates 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in diminished productivity and property loss. Researchers believe that these numbers are underestimated, given that an estimated 1 million crashes are produced by driver inattention --- a side effect of fatigue."Drowsy driving risks the life of not only the driver, but the lives of their passengers --- family and friends --- and other drivers on the road," said Gelula. "The disastrous effects of fatigue-related crashes can easily be prevented; all it takes is for people to recognize the problem and get off the road."
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