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Truck Drivers with Untreated Sleep Apnea Have Higher Crash Rate, Study Says

Posted By Terry D. Jackson, P.C. || 27-Apr-2016

Terry D. Jackson, P.C. has handled hundreds of truck accident cases over the past 20 years, many of which were caused by fatigued drivers. Sometimes, these accidents occur when drivers knowingly fail to take their required rest periods. Other times, drivers may have an underlying medical condition that they have ignored and failed to seek treatment for. This carelessness, which leads to hundreds of thousands of preventable injuries and deaths, was the catalyst behind a new study that has the FMCSA ready to change the rules.

A recent study published in March in the online journal Sleep has revealed that commercial truck drivers with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a crash rate five times higher than truck drivers without the condition. The study analyzed the findings of the first comprehensive employer program to screen, detect, and monitor treatment of OSA within the trucking industry.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which an individual repeatedly stops and starts breathing during the sleep cycle, and is one of the most common causes of extreme daytime fatigue. Sleep apnea has a negative effect on working memory, attention, executive functioning, and vigilance. It is estimated that as much as 20 percent of truck accidents are caused by fatigued driving.

Researchers examined the results of a sleep apnea screening, detection, and treatment program that was implemented by a leading North American trucking firm starting in 2006. The researchers compared a control group of drivers unlikely to have the condition with another group that did have the condition. The latter group was further subdivided into those who fully adhered to treatment, those who partially adhered to treatment, and those who neglected to treat the condition at all. Furthermore, the researchers took into account data from avoidable accidents in which the truck driver was determined to be at fault.

The study concluded that with similar driving experiences, drivers with OSA who fully adhered to their treatment had similar crash rates to drivers without OSA, while those who did not adhere to treatment were five times more likely to be involved in an accident. Although truck drivers are tested every other year for their overall medical fitness, testing for sleep apnea is currently not mandatory.

FMCSA Considering Mandatory OSA Testing & Treatment

In light of this study, experts are now suggesting that trucking companies conduct regular sleep apnea screenings and require drivers to obtain treatment for the condition in order to continue driving. Enforcing compliance would have a significant impact on truck and bus accidents, reducing the amount of preventable injuries and deaths among the motoring public. Calling this a “major public health issue,” the FMCSA is currently considering the possibility of making screening, diagnosis, and treatment for OSA mandatory. Since sleep apnea can lead to other serious health risks like cancer, dementia, diabetes, heart disease, and premature death, it is urgent that truck drivers and other public transportation operators receive regular healthcare screenings to not only keep themselves healthy, but others safe.

Premier Truck Accident Attorneys in Georgia

If you have been hurt in a truck accident caused by a fatigued driver, contact Terry D. Jackson, P.C. to discuss your legal options with a Georgia truck accident lawyer. We have handled truck accident and other catastrophic personal injury cases in Georgia for the past 20 years, and have won some of the highest verdict in the state. Ask for your free consultation when you call (877) 779-8030.

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