Sleep Apnea’s Impact on Truck Drivers
Every year, there are 15 million commercial trucks on our nation’s roads. These trucks transport over 70 percent of our country’s goods and help keep our economy running smoothly. Unfortunately, however, more commercial trucks on the road means more trucking accidents. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, thousands of lives are lost each year in collisions involving commercial tractor-trailers.
To combat the dangers on our roads, lawmakers in Arkansas and at the federal level are working diligently on laws aimed at reducing the number of trucking accident deaths. Despite all of our best safety efforts and regulations, commercial trucking accidents have increased by 20 percent in recent years.
There are numerous reasons why trucking accidents have increased. Common causes of trucking accidents include truck driver fatigue, poor truck maintenance, speeding and distracted driving. Truck drivers often work long hours and under stressful conditions, driving large, fully loaded, 80,000-pound big rigs. Sadly, driving fatigued is one of the main causes of truck driving accidents.
Now, researchers have realized that a common sleeping disorder known as sleep apnea may be affecting truck drivers and impacting their ability to drive their commercial truck safely. In fact, a recent study found that 28 percent of commercial truck drivers suffer from the debilitating effects of sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder that affects over 100 million people around the world. When someone suffers from sleep apnea, he or she temporarily stops breathing during his or her sleep. This pause in breathing can last at least 10 seconds and occurs at multiple times throughout the night. This causes interrupted sleep, which makes truckers feel more fatigued when they’re driving, even if they got the recommended hours of sleep prior to operating their vehicles.
While anyone can have sleep apnea, this sleep disorder most commonly affects men who are overweight, have a recessed chin or small jaw and who are over the age of 40. Smoking and alcohol use can also increase the chances of having sleep apnea.
Truck drivers are at an increased risk of being diagnosed with sleep apnea due to their sedentary jobs. Spending long hours behind the wheel of a truck makes it difficult to live a healthy lifestyle. Truckers may eat fast food while on the road or binge on empty carbs as a way to fill up while driving. Spending so much time on the road also makes it more difficult to exercise and remain active.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Truck drivers who are constantly fatigued or who snore while they sleep may be suffering from sleep apnea. While there are treatments available to help truck drivers overcome sleep apnea, they require a precise and prompt diagnosis. If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, see a qualified medical professional to undergo a sleep test. Once you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may prescribe lifestyle changes, and possibly a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device) machine.
One of the best treatments for obstructive sleep apnea is called a CPAP machine. This is a mask that fits snugly over the nose and mouth while breathing. At night, the machine delivers air into the airways to keep them open and prevent sleep apnea. It is highly effective when used properly.
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Truckers?
Sleep apnea results in chronic fatigue and increased risk of heart disease, strokes and other health conditions. In truck drivers, driving while fatigued can also result in deadly trucking accidents. When the body doesn’t get proper sleep, cognitive function and ability decrease. This increases the likelihood that truck drivers will fall asleep while driving or make poor decisions while on the road.
A Virginia Tech study showed that chronic fatigue and sleepiness caused 20 percent of all crashes in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue caused an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and over $12.5 billion in monetary losses every year.
To help prevent deadly trucking accidents due to fatigue, lawmakers are now looking to screen and test truck drivers for sleep apnea. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does not specifically require truckers to get tested for sleep apnea, they do require medical screening in order to safely operate a vehicle. To reduce accidents, doctors may be actively looking for signs of sleep apnea in truck drivers now. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, you will be required to receive sleep apnea treatment to regain your “medically qualified to drive” status. With treatment, however, it is common for truck drivers to be able to continue driving their big rigs and commercial trucks without difficulty.
We’re There When You Need Us
Trucking accidents are often catastrophic and result in serious and life-threatening injuries. When you’re injured because of a truck driver’s negligence or a trucking company’s negligence, an experienced Arkansas trucking accident lawyer can help you seek the compensation you deserve. From the moment you are injured, your lawyer can help protect your rights to compensation and ensure that you are not taken advantage of during this difficult time.
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Contact Rainwater, Holt & Sexton Injury Lawyers today. Fill out a free contact request form, which only takes a minute, or simply dial (800) 767-4815 and tell us your story.
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