The Cambridge Health Alliance is reporting that there could be up to 3.9 million licensed commercial truck drivers who are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. This condition is the number two cause of fatigue during the daytime, which means that truckers with OSA may be more prone than other drivers to engage in drowsy driving or fall asleep behind the wheel of their trucks—two common causes of Maryland truck accidents.
As a matter of fact, sleep apnea in general reportedly increases the chances of being involved in a motor vehicle accident by up to seven fold. The consequences of falling asleep behind the wheel of a large truck can be catastrophic.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
A person with this sleeping disorder may have trouble breathing and sleeping well at night, which can lead to excessive sleepiness during typical waking hours, a tendency to fall asleep during the daytime, and psychomotor deficits. While about 20 million people in the US are believed to be afflicted with sleep apnea, many individuals don’t even know they have the disorder.
With long, irregular hours already taking a toll on a truck driver’s health and ability to drive lucidly, OSA further compounds the concern that exhausted and overworked truckers could cause fatal motor vehicle crashes because they’ve fallen asleep while driving. The Cambridge Health Alliance, which conducted a 15-month study, recommends making it mandatory for commercial truckers to test for OSA.
The Cambridge Health Alliance OSA-Trucker Test
456 commercial truck drivers were tested. 17% of them met the criteria for possible OSA. These truckers tended to be older, more obese, and had above average blood pressure. Only 20 of the participants that satisfied the OSA screening criteria took part in the sleep studies, and all of them were diagnosed with OSA. Unfortunately, only one of the truckers followed treatment recommendations. According to Dr. Philip Parks, the study’s lead author, most truckers seemed to underreport or minimize symptoms for OSA, and there could be up to 14 million US truck drivers with untreated or undiagnosed sleep apnea.
Truck drivers must be alert anytime they are behind the wheel of their commercial truck. Not only is their vehicle likely larger and significantly heavier than the other vehicles on the road, but often, trucks may be carrying large loads or toxic substances. Unfortunately, in the rush to meet deadlines and fulfill delivery orders, truckers have been known to drive while exhausted. This can make them drive carelessly or recklessly, resulting in fatal truck crashes.
Obesity Linked To Dangerous Sleep Apnea In Truck Drivers, Science Daily, March 12, 2009
Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Sleep Disorder Channel
New Study Links Obesity to Dangerous Sleep Apnea in Truck Drivers, 24-7 Press Release, March 27, 2009
Related Web Resources:
Hours of Service Regulations, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
If you or someone you love was injured in a Maryland truck collision, our personal injury law firm would like to talk to you.