The Dangerous Relationship Between Sleep Apnea and Commercial Truck Drivers
Recent studies have indicated that drowsy driving may be as dangerous as drunk driving, and has likely contributed to thousands of crashes each year. In fact, according to DrowsyDriving.org, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving contributes to at least 100,000 crashes throughout the U.S. on an annual basis, and approximately 1,150 deaths and 71,000 injuries.
What may be particularly dangerous, though, is not just driving while fatigued, but driving while fatigued as a commercial truck driver. Commercial truck drivers have an enhanced duty of care when operating their vehicles, as they surely should – these trucks, which can weigh up to 80,000 lbs., have the ability to crush other vehicles in a crash, leading to devastating and fatal injuries.
One problem that may contribute to a commercial truck driver driving while drowsy: obstructive sleep apnea. The disease, which can be difficult to detect, can lead to drowsy driving, creating a hazard for everyone on the road.
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a disease where a person literally stops breathing – or experiences a significant decrease in airflow – while they are asleep. OSA is the most common type of sleep disorder, and a person who suffers from it may stop breathing multiple times throughout the night.
Not only is sleep apnea dangerous for your health, and is associated with a number of worrisome conditions, including irregular heart rhythms, but it can also leave a sufferer feeling extremely tired. When you stop breathing during the night, your body typically resumes breathing by snoring, jerking, or gasping. While you may not be aware of these actions, your body is not able to fully “sleep” through these, and restless sleep, daytime fatigue, confusion, and cognitive defects are all common side effects.
It is clear why truck drivers suffering from OSA could be a hazard: if a truck driver isn’t focused, falls asleep at the wheel, or has a delayed response time, the consequences could be life-altering. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a commercial truck, it is important that you contact the experienced truck accident attorneys at Cobb Boyd White & Cobb to make sure your rights are protected, evidence is preserved and you are in the best possible position to receive maximum compensation.
What is Being Done to Combat OSA in Commercial Truck Drivers?
The Federal Government has considered requiring screening for obstructive sleep apnea for all commercial drivers, including truck drivers, bus drivers, and even railroad workers. According to current laws, however, which are found on the website of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a person who has sleep apnea may still be permitted to drive.
As explained by the FMCSA, there is no law that specifically addresses sleep apnea and commercial truck drivers. However, regulations do read that if a driver has a medical condition that interferes with their ability to safely operate their commercial vehicle, their driver eligibility is revoked.
However, eligibility can be reinstated if the driver seeks medical care to treat the sleep apnea. If a driver has sleep apnea and the sleep apnea is severe, they may be disqualified as a commercial driver.
If you are a truck driver and you have any symptoms of sleep apnea, including daytime fatigue, loud snoring, impotence, memory or concentration problems, or get up multiple times in the night to urinate, you should get tested for sleep apnea. Failure to get tested, diagnosed, and treated for sleep apnea could be endangering your life and the lives of others.
What to Do if You Are Involved in an Accident Caused by a Fatigued Truck Driver
Truck driver fatigue is a serious problem. Whether caused by sleep apnea, overworking, insomnia, or another sleep-related problem, there is no place for fatigue on the road. If you are involved in an accident with a truck driver who was drowsy at the time of your crash, thereby causing the accident, you have the right to pursue damages.
At the law offices of Cobb, Boyd, White & Cobb Attorneys at Law, our experienced Dothan, Alabama truck accident attorneys will build your claim from the ground up. We investigate all truck accident cases, determine liability, and negotiate for damages. For your free consultation, call our offices today at 334-677-1000.