A collision with an 80,000-pound tractor-trailer usually does not end well for other vehicles on the road. Some accidents can be linked to drivers suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, according to new research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
Previous studies have shown that the number of truck drivers experiencing sleep apnea is increasing. Many truckers deny that the condition affects their performance. Some employers seem unwilling to cover the cost of screening their drivers and/or providing treatment for those who need it.
The Virginia Tech study covered 20,000 drivers and used a more precise evaluation tool than prior research. It reported that nearly 49 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers on the highway today would be flagged for further sleep apnea testing. This was a startling revelation compared to prior studies.
Of those identified drivers, many would be diagnosed with sleep apnea. It’s suspected that 30 percent of truckers have the condition, which causes sleepiness and lack of attention. If left untreated, sleep apnea can be life-threatening on its own. If a truck driver suffers from sleep apnea, the risk of a fatigued driving accident increases exponentially.
Sleep Apnea Can Be an Occupational Hazard for Truck Drivers
The life of long-haul drivers tends to be one of high stress, leaving little room for exercise and healthy eating. These factors can lead to chronic health issues that are associated with sleep apnea.
According to Freight Waves, signs of sleep apnea that need to be addressed include snoring loudly, interrupted breathing while asleep, and waking up tired after a full night’s sleep.
Other symptoms to be aware of include:
- High blood pressure
- Morning headaches
- Sleep difficulty
- Problems with paying attention
- Behavioral issues such as irritability and depression
- Decline in memory
- Heavy use of medications to treat symptoms
- Heart attack and stroke
Crashes Can Be Prevented, Study Finds
Commercial motor vehicle drivers who don’t seek treatment for their sleep apnea are five times more likely to be involved in a crash compared to those who do, according to a University of Minnesota study.
Some drivers decline evaluation and treatment. They feel their industry is being unfairly singled out for baseless criticism. They are reluctant to participate in studies that take them off the road, even for a short time. Few are willing to use a C-PAP device to facilitate better breathing while they sleep.
In their defense, their working conditions contribute to their health issues. They drive for long hours, lack opportunities to exercise and rarely have access to healthy food options at truck stops. That puts them in a bind of trying to take care of their health while maintaining a steady income. Still, if a driver is diagnosed with a sleep disorder and causes an accident, the trucker or his/her employer could be held liable if someone is seriously injured.
Contact Brooks Law Group If You’ve Been Injured
Few accidents are as horrific as being hit by an 18-wheeler. If you’ve been hurt in a truck accident in Florida, the attorneys at Brooks Law Group will fight to recover maximum compensation for your losses. Contact us 24/7 for a free case review.