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Sleep Apnea’s Role in Trucking Accidents

Casey Woodruff

truckWhen we talk about drowsy driving and trucking accidents, should we be thinking about issues beyond the sheer number of hours spent on America’s highways? According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may play a role in truck accidents in DuPage County and across the country. To be sure, a recent study from Harvard University’s School of Public Health determined that truck drivers who suffer from sleep apnea and do not adhere to proper treatment regimens may be more likely than truckers without the ailment to be involved in dangerous truck collisions.

Monitoring and Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea in the Trucking Industry 

The recent study, which brought together researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of Minnesota-Morris, and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explored the “results of the first large-scale employer program to screen, diagnose, and monitor OSA treatment adherence in the U.S. trucking industry.” The research was published late last month in the journal Sleep. In short, the researchers wanted to determine how well the trucking industry has monitored truckers’ screening for sleep apnea and the rate at which those truckers adhere to treatment plans.

What did the study determine? According to Stefanos Kales, the senior author of the study and the Chief of Occupational Medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance, the U.S. trucking industry needs to regularly screen commercial truck drivers for OSA. And when it turns out that truckers have sleep apnea, employers need to monitor their drivers to ensure that they are abiding by treatment plans. As Kales explained, “mandating screening, diagnosis, and treatment would reduce large truck and bus accidents, and therefore deaths and injuries among the motoring public.”

How Many Truck Accidents Result from Untreated or Improperly Treated Sleep Apnea? 

Although we cannot know for certain how many truck accidents in DuPage County were caused directly by untreated or improperly treated sleep apnea, we do know that around 20 percent of all large truck accidents result from drowsy driving. As Kales points out, that number means that drowsy or fatigued driving likely accounts for about 9,000 fatalities and as many as 220,000 severe injuries every year. When such accidents happen during daytime hours, we may be able to attribute them to OSA.

As the study explains, sleep apnea is “a disorder in which sleep is disrupted by repeated stops and starts of breathing,” and it is “the most common cause of excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue.” As of now, the U.S. trucking industry does not require commercial truck drivers to be screen for OSA. However, based on the study’s findings, we know that truckers who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and failed to adhere to their treatment “had a rate of preventable crashes five-fold greater than that of the control group which had similar driving experience.” In other words, proper treatment of OSA can reduce the risk of truck crashes.

Contact a West Chicago Trucking Accident Lawyer

Trucking accidents result in serious and often fatal injuries. If someone you love recently suffered severe injuries in a truck accident, an experienced West Chicago trucking accident lawyer can help with your case. When another driver’s negligence results in accidents and injuries, the victim and her family deserves to seek financial compensation. Contact Woodruff Johnson & Evans to discuss your options for filing a trucking accident lawsuit.

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