Millions of Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a condition that can significantly increase the risk of causing an auto accident. Among those millions are commercial drivers operating big rigs, buses and other large vehicles. Sleep apnea can be screened for and treated once a diagnosis is made. However, progress has been slow to develop rules for sleep apnea screening.
Why is it dangerous for commercial drivers to suffer from untreated sleep apnea? A study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows truck drivers with this condition have a fivefold risk of causing accidents.
Despite the heightened risk of drivers with sleep apnea causing an accident, many trucking companies do not screen for this condition! The FMCSA has previously had difficulty enacting rules that would require mandatory screening and treatment for drivers who meet certain criteria. For example, a final rule issued by the FMCSA may require drivers with a higher body mass index to undergo mandatory screening.
Some progress has been made in recent months, and the FMCSA is convening this week to discuss criteria for an eventual screening rule. If commercial drivers were screened for sleep apnea, they could be given treatment options. The most common treatment for sleep apnea is using a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP). CPAPs are portable and can easily fit into semi-truck cabins.
Why Does Sleep Apnea Cause Truck Accidents?
People with this condition suffer pauses in breathing while they are sleeping. This means people with untreated sleep apnea may have a difficult time staying asleep. Due to poor sleep quality, people with this condition may experience excessive daytime drowsiness and difficulty concentrating. When commercial truck drivers have these symptoms, they present a danger to everyone else on the road.
In the event a trucking company knew an employee was unfit to drive, and that driver causes an accident, they may be held liable. Victims of truck accidents or their families should always consult with an attorney to explore available legal options.
The New Jersey truck accident attorneys at Keefe Bartels have the experience and dedication necessary to hold negligent trucking companies accountable.