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Study: Those 2 Scents Put the Brakes on Driver Fatigue, Road Rage

April 28, 2005 -- The smell of cinnamon or peppermint might take the edge off road rage during your next traffic jam.

Those two odors won't change the knot of cars in the lanes ahead, shorten the distance to your destination, or rev up the beep-and-creep pace of your commute. But they might help your frame of mind while driving.

New research shows that cinnamon or peppermint may curb driver fatigue, increase alertness, and ease frustration behind the wheel. The findings were presented in Sarasota, Fla., at a conference of the Association for Chemical Reception Sciences.

"Given the results, it is reasonable to expect that the presentation of peppermint or cinnamon odor while driving may produce a more alert and conscientious driver, and minimize the fatigue associated with prolonged driving," says Bryan Raudenbush, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at West Virginia's Wheeling Jesuit University.

Automotive Aromatherapy?

Raudenbush says past research has shown that peppermint and cinnamon odors boost motivation, performance, and alertness while cutting fatigue and stimulating the brain.

Recently, he studied those scents in a simulated driving experiment.

Participants "drove" under three different conditions: no odor, cinnamon, or peppermint. Cinnamon and peppermint were pumped through an oxygen concentrator for 30 seconds every 15 minutes.

The drivers' wakefulness, mood, workload, and mental performance were noted.

Road Test Results

Here's what Raudenbush found:

  • In general, prolonged driving led to increased anger, fatigue, and physical demand, as well as decreased energy.
  • Peppermint decreased anxiety and fatigue while driving.
  • Peppermint and cinnamon both decreased driving frustration while driving.
  • Peppermint and cinnamon both increased alertness while driving.

"Periodic administration of these odors over long-term driving may prove beneficial in maintaining alertness and decreasing highway accidents and fatalities," write the researchers.

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