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Study Suggests that Sleep Apnea Affecting Truck Drivers May Increase the Risk of Accidents

February 05, 2021

A study conducted by Virginia Tech reported that truck drivers who do not treat their sleep apnea places them and other drivers on the road at risk for being injured in a serious accident.  Daytime fatigue as well as drowsiness are both often associated with obstructive sleep apnea, which can affect a trucker and his or her ability to safely operate a commercial truck such as an 18-wheeler.

Data gathered by researchers involved in the study highlights the fact that there is an increased risk of crashes with truckers who do not follow sleep apnea treatment protocols.  The study specifically examined 1,600 truckers who were diagnosed with sleep apnea and compared them with an equal amount of those who do not suffer from this serious condition.

A trucking company involved in the study offered a sleep apnea treatment program for employees diagnosed with sleep apnea. The researchers then analyzed the amount of preventable accidents that took place in both groups of truckers per 100,000 miles driven.  

Per its findings, the one-year study was able to ascertain that for every 1,000 truckers, 70 serious and preventable crashes were likely to occur if a trucker does not seek treatment for his or her sleep apnea.  Only 14 serious and preventable crashes were likely to occur among truckers who were not diagnosed with sleep apnea or received a sleep apnea diagnosis and pursued a course of treatment.

Those working for the company who did not adhere to the treatment protocol or who declined treatment either quit or were fired.  Roughly 60 percent of those who failed to follow the sleep apnea protocol left the company before being terminated. 

Despite losing their job due to a failure to follow the company’s treatment program, drivers are able to be hired by other companies, as federal law does not require truckers to provide medical information to new employers.  The lack of regulations for evaluating truckers for sleep apnea places other drivers on the road at risk for an accident involving a commercial truck.

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Category: Truck Accidents

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