According to several studies, sleep apnea is linked with a substantial increase in motor vehicle accidents. Sleep apnea is one of the conditions that can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, and it is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents. Almost all the time, victims of sleep apnea are not aware of their condition, and if it was a factor that led to the accident.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder that affects many people globally. It is a disorder whereby breathing recurrently stops and starts. A person who has sleep apnea experiences at least 10 seconds of stopped breathing that happens throughout the night.
Anyone can get sleep apnea; however, the disorder is more common in overweight men, with thicker necks and a narrowed airway. Drinking alcohol and smoking can also increase the risks of having sleep apnea. Truck driving is a sedentary job, and spending a lot of time behind the wheels makes it hard for truck drivers to live a healthy life. Truck drivers also don’t get the time to exercise and stay active. This makes it easy for them to be diagnosed with sleep apnea.
How Sleep Apnea Can Cause a Truck Accident
Sleep apnea affects the truck driver’s sleep, and this affects their daytime alertness and performance. When not treated sleep apnea makes it difficult for truck drivers to stay awake during the day. Additionally, truck drivers find it more difficult to focus their eyes and react swiftly when driving.
Sleep apnea causes fatigue
Sleep apnea does more than cause drowsiness during the day. Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the common types of sleep apnea. It is when the muscles relax and result in a full or partial airway blockage. When a truck driver has sleep apnea, their body remains awake, and they don’t go through the whole four-stage sleep cycle. Instead, they just go in and out of the first stages and never reaching the critical deep sleep stage where the body can fully unwind.
Insufficient sleep makes the driver feel fatigued and lacks energy while continually trying to catch up on their sleep. Fatigue puts the driver at risk of causing an accident while driving. Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has clear guidelines on the number of hours a truck driver should work and rest, truck drivers, can still feel exhausted when driving if they have sleep apnea.
The FMCSA has issued a warning about the dangers of untreated sleep apnea in truck drivers. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, no driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle while their driving ability is impaired, or can become impaired due to fatigue, illness, or any other cause that makes it unsafe for him or any other road user.
Many people experience an occasional session of daytime tiredness. However, excessive daytime sleeping can be a symptom of sleep apnea. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 100,000 accidents that happen every year can be sketched back to drivers who dozed off while driving. Drowsy drivers are dangerous for everyone, and when it comes to truck driving, it can be disastrous.
The U.S Department of Transport, together with relevant agencies like the FMCSA, has put in place rules in response to the increasing numbers of truck accidents caused by drowsy truck drivers. For instance, commercial truck drivers have their driving schedules and workloads standardized to maximize every road user’s safety.
Trucking companies are known to offer motivations like bonuses for truck drivers who convey cargo ahead of schedule. In turn, this puts too much pressure on the drivers who will push themselves beyond the limit to meet the deadlines.
A fatigued truck driver can quickly doze off while driving a truck. If the driver has to abruptly steer the truck to escape an impending collision, drowsiness slows down their level of alertness to a dangerous point. In addition, drowsy drivers get a hard time focusing on the road as they tend to focus their energy more on staying alert.
Depression and stress
The major contributor to a truck driver’s decreased mental health is lack of sleep. Sleep is vital, especially for truck drivers who have different schedules and extended hours of work. Depressed driving has an increased risk of collisions, and the driver must reveal to the truck company if they have depression. Most truck drivers continue with their daily jobs assuming that the depression will not impact their ability to drive safely.
More so, drivers using antidepressants to treat the depression caused by sleep apnea are at greater risk of causing a road accident. Truck drivers who are unfit to drive are supposed to surrender their driving license, especially if the condition has dramatically impacted their concentration and behavior.
The increasing rate of sleep apnea in truck drivers has created a public safety threat that is more serious than some little sleep. Unfortunately, until the trucking companies establish serious rules about seeking out and preventing sleep apnea in truck drivers, many of them will continue operating their trucks with this condition, putting everyone on the road at risk.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a truck collision involving a driver with sleep apnea, you have the right to file a claim. Consult a Fetterman and Associates personal injury lawyer today for a free consultation. We will help you seek compensation for the losses following the accident.