Background and objective: Strategies adopted by drivers in order to cope with fatigue and falling asleep at the wheel include a variety of activities that may invigorate the body and/or the mind. The objectives of the current study were to examine the effectiveness of an energy drink and a non-traditional manual-dexterity/mastication activity as fatigue countermeasures.
Method: Twenty subjects participated in this driving simulator study. Each driving session lasted 2h and each driver drove under three conditions: after consumption of an energy drink, while engaged in a self-paced manual-dexterity/mastication secondary task (shelling and eating sunflower seeds), and in a control condition with neither. Fatigue effects were assessed on three dimensions: subjective evaluations (using the Swedish Occupational Fatigue Inventory), a physiological indicator (heart rate variability), and driving performance measures (speed, steering, and lane deviations).
Results: The subjective and physiological measures showed a significant effect of both treatments in counteracting the effects of fatigue when compared to the control condition. The results of the driving performance measures indicated that the energy drink was effective in counteracting fatigue, while the secondary task was as effective as the energy drink in counteracting fatigue on measures that did not rely on hand movements.
Conclusions: Drinking an energy drink prior to the driving task has a significant, positive effect in counteracting fatigue, though it may have long-term negative rebound effects. The manual-dexterity/mastication secondary task can temporarily counteract the subjective and physiological effects of fatigue while driving, but can interfere with vehicle handling.