Sleep Apnea Contributes to Risk of Fatigue Based Trucking Accidents


February 24, 2012

Truck driver fatigue is a leading cause of tractor-trailer accidents in Georgia as well as throughout the country. More than 750 people are killed in tractor-trailer accidents, while twenty thousand more reportedly suffer injury in collisions involving fatigued commercial drivers in the United States. Hours of service (HOS) rules address some of these fatigue-based issues by limiting the amount of time that drivers are on the road without breaks, mandating minimum rest periods between driving shifts and establishing maximum driving hours within a designated time period.

Unfortunately, HOS rules only address the quantity of rest by truck drivers not the quality of rest during those breaks. This is why there has been consideration of new trucking regulations that address sleep apnea, which may contribute significantly to tractor-trailer driver fatigue.

In obstructive sleep apnea, the upper airway collapses while a person is sleeping. Periods of apnea end with a brief partial arousal that can interrupt a person’s sleep repeatedly. Sleep apnea is diagnosed with an overnight sleep test called “polysomnography” or a “sleep study.” This sleep study may become the basis for new trucking regulations. Drivers of tractor-trailers with severe sleep apnea are more likely to experience sleepiness and fatigue-impaired driving.

A study conducted by Alan Mulgrew, M.D. of the UBC Sleep Disorders Program in Vancouver, British Columbia compared 800 drivers with sleep apnea to 800 drivers without the condition. The study revealed that drivers with sleep apnea were twice as likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident. The subjects with sleep apnea had a total of 250 crashes over three years while those without the condition were involved in 123 collisions. Dr. Mulgrew indicated that the study reaffirmed earlier studies showing higher motor vehicle collision rates for those suffering from sleep apnea, and the study found that even mild cases of sleep apnea result in an increased risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash.

While sleep apnea is estimated to occur in only 4 percent of the general population, the rate reportedly may be as high as 30 percent among tractor-trailer drivers. Studies suggest that primary reasons for this disparity is related to the risk factors of age and obesity. Approximately half of all commercial truck drivers are over the age of 45, which is the highest risk age group. Further, 46 percent of commercial truck drivers are obese according to a study by Atlas Ergonomics. These are the two major risk factors for sleep apnea.

While the results of research regarding accident rates and sleep apnea suggest a serious accident risk for all drivers, the scope of this risk is magnified when the driver is in control of a massive commercial vehicle that may be up to 80,000 pounds in weight. There is now discussion about sleep apnea testing and BMI testing to reduce the risk of commercial trucking accidents related to sleep apnea.

If you or your loved one has been involved in a Georgia tractor-trailer accident, you or your loved one may be entitled to compensation for any injuries or loss. Our Atlanta tractor-trailer accident lawyers are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Truck Accidents

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