Sleep apnea is a condition that affects your airways when you sleep. People who suffer from sleep apnea don’t get the same quality of sleep as those who are free of the condition. That’s because, throughout the night, the airways of sleep apnea patients close causing them to wake up because they’re unable to breathe.
Over time, sleep apnea sufferers experience sleep deprivation and associated fatigue. As you can imagine, when you’re behind the wheel of a giant 18-wheeler, driver fatigue and sleepiness is extremely dangerous.
Harvard study highlights sleep apnea dangers for truck drivers
According to a study published by Harvard last year, truck drivers who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea have five times the chance of getting into a preventable crash if they don’t adhere to their treatment protocols. The study, published in the journal “Sleep,” was the first time researchers investigated the results of employer efforts to monitor, screen and diagnose sleep apnea in the U.S. trucking and transportation industry.
The findings of the research support the notion that commercial truck drivers must subject themselves to screening for sleep apnea on a regular basis, and if diagnosed, they must adhere to treatment if they wish to continue driving. According to the senior researcher who compiled the study, “Mandating screening, diagnosis, and treatment would reduce large truck and bus accidents, and therefore deaths and injuries among the motoring public.”
Incredibly, an estimated 20 percent of semitruck accidents are the result of drowsy and/or fatigued driving. This means that 9,000 deaths and 222,000 serious injuries are the result of fatigued driving each year.
When fatigued driving causes accidents and injuries
Whenever a truck accident happens, it’s important for injured victims — family members of deceased victims — to investigate whether fatigued or sleep-deprived driving could be to blame. One way to check for fatigued driving is to review truck drivers’ sleep and rest logs.
If a driver failed to log his or her necessary sleep and rest times, then the driver — and the transportation company that employed the driver — could be financially liable to pay for wrongful death and personal injury damages stemming from the crash.