The Connection Between Trucking Accidents and Sleep Apnea

Since truck accidents cause so much damage compared to other types of collisions, there’s a lot of research on the causes of these accidents and how to reduce rates. One issue in the industry is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a relatively common diagnosis that can have a significant effect on how safely you drive, and it can play a role in preventable accidents.

Have you been injured in a truck accident? If so, don’t wait any longer to contact the team at Bailey, Javins & Carter. Call us at 800-497-0234 to set up a consultation with our team of Charleston truck accident attorneys.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a relatively common sleep disorder. Those diagnosed with this disorder have short pauses in their breathing when they sleep, which generally causes snoring. While people often joke about their partner’s snoring, it can be quite serious. 

Obstructive sleep apnea causes the throat muscles to relax and block the airway. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain’s signals to continue breathing are interrupted. People with sleep apnea often have a poor quality of sleep and feel drowsy during the day, no matter how long they sleep at night.

Some factors put people at greater risk for sleep apnea. They include:

  • Family background of sleep apnea
  • Being overweight
  • Neck larger than 16 inches for women or 17 inches for men
  • Smoking and regular alcohol use
  • Aged 40 or older

Sleep apnea is fairly common in the truck driving industry. Truck drivers often have to work long shifts and stay on the road late into the night, further increasing the likelihood of sleep disturbances and daytime fatigue.

How Sleep Apnea Affects Truck Drivers

When truck drivers have sleep apnea but do not realize it, they may think they’re hitting the road every day fully rested. Their sleep apnea puts them at a disadvantage, and they start every drive at the risk of drowsiness and falling asleep.

Truck drivers with sleep apnea may experience impaired alertness. This is incredibly dangerous when an unexpected obstacle, crash, or change in traffic flow occurs, as the driver may not react in time to stop. The constant sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can also lead to cognitive and motor deficits that make it even harder to drive safely. Cognitive deficits caused by sleep apnea include limited attention span, poor memory, and poor judgment. Affected motor skills include fine motor skills, general coordination, and hand-eye coordination.

All of these factors combined drive up the risk of being involved in an accident.

Regulatory Guidelines for Those with Sleep Apnea

The FMCSA specifically addresses sleep apnea in its recommendations and guidelines. They claim that 28% of commercial truck drivers have sleep apnea, which is alarming news for anyone on the road. Under FMCSA regulations, anyone with a clinical diagnosis of a condition that is likely to interfere with their safe driving cannot operate a commercial motor vehicle for interstate commerce. However, doctors can safely and effectively treat sleep apnea. Once a driver’s condition is under control, they can resume driving commercially. The medical examiner will indicate whether a driver’s sleep apnea is mild, moderate, or severe. Moderate or severe sleep apnea disqualifies a commercial driver from interstate commerce. The driver must then seek treatment before they resume driving.

Addressing Sleep Apnea in the Trucking Industry

It’s important that company owners, medical examiners, and truck drivers themselves realize how widespread sleep apnea is in this industry. This makes it easier for drivers to get a diagnosis and the treatment they need. When drivers with sleep apnea are properly diagnosed and under the care of a medical professional, everyone on the road benefits. Trucking companies may want to provide medical literature on sleep apnea to their drivers so they can watch for warning signs and symptoms.

Explore Your Options After a Truck Accident—Contact Bailey, Javins & Carter

A surprising number of accidents are caused by drowsy drivers. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, it’s time to talk to the team at Bailey, Javins & Carter. Contact us online or call us at 800-497-0234 to set up a consultation with our team of Charleston truck accident lawyers.