When you encounter a fully loaded long-haul truck beside you at 70 miles per hour, your very survival may depend on whether the driver is fully alert. Unfortunately, fatigue is widely reported as a cause of truck accidents. Sleep apnea may be the reason why.
Researchers at Virginia Tech recently documented the frequency of obstructive sleep apnea among truck drivers. This serious medical condition is treatable but often goes undetected.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which an individual stops breathing for 10 seconds or more. This can occur as many as 400 times a night. It often goes undiagnosed and as a result, sufferers experience drowsiness and fatigue, even after a good night’s sleep.
CMV Drivers and Sleep Apnea
Drivers licensed to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMV) and make frequent long-haul trips are known to experience stress as an occupational hazard. As a result, they tend to be at risk for sleep apnea and other chronic health conditions including:
- Headaches in the morning
- Sleep issues
- Trouble paying attention
- Irritability and depression
- Memory problems
- Use of heavy medications
- Heart attack and stroke
The Virginia Tech researchers evaluated 20,000 CMV drivers using a more precise tool than prior study teams. The results show that nearly 49 percent of truckers would be flagged for further sleep apnea testing based on their responses to the survey.
Sleep apnea afflicts around four percent of the population, but as much as 35 percent of truckers. Because truck drivers are responsible for operating giant vehicles on the roads, it’s critical for them to be properly diagnosed and treated to reduce the likelihood of fatigued driving accidents.
DOT Sleep Apnea Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the division of the U.S. Department of Transportation that regulates large trucks and buses. The agency seeks to reduce crashes and promote safety on the road.
Federal regulations do not specifically address sleep apnea. They do, however, require that an individual with a medical condition that may interfere with their driving ability to be medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce.
With the right treatment, a driver can resume “medically-qualified-to-drive” status. It is important to note that most cases of sleep apnea can be treated successfully.
Those who have recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea may begin driving conditionally for a month while beginning CPAP therapy. CPAP is short for continuous positive airway pressure therapy. It is a treatment for sleep apnea, using mild air pressure to keep the airway open.
FMCSA defines compliance as using CPAP or other therapy an average of four hours each night for a minimum of 70 percent of nights. Additional regulations vary from state to state.
How Sleep Apnea Can Cause Truck Accidents
Drivers with sleep apnea often don’t know that they have the condition. They don’t realize they snore or that they wake up intermittently through the night.
On the road, drowsy truck drivers may be less aware of what’s going on around them. They may not respond quickly to emergencies, overcorrect, or veer out of their lane or off the road. These impairments put truckers are at greater risk of causing devastating wrecks.
Contact Pius Joseph Today
If you or a loved one is a victim of a truck crash in Pasadena, it’s important to take immediate steps to protect your claim. However, the serious nature of these accidents often means that victims need medical treatment immediately. That gives the truck company’s insurer an advantage because they can begin investigations right away.
Don’t let them get the upper hand. With more than 30 years of experience, truck accident attorney Pius Joseph can investigate your claim and represent you fiercely when the at-fault party tries to deny responsibility for the wreck.
Contact us today for your free consultation.