The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is warning commercial drivers about the dangers of sleep apnea as authorities work to reduce the risk of commercial trucking accidents in Georgia and elsewhere.
Our Atlanta trucking accident lawyers have reported here before on the rules in place to help ensure truck drivers are well rested. Hours of Service rules are being reviewed and the government is pushing rules to require black box data recorders — similar to airlines — which would replace the written log books that have long been vulnerable to forgery and other shenanigans. Still, some safety advocates say truckers need more stringent physicals — similar to the twice-a-year requirements of airline pilots. And the use of pain medication is another area where not enough rules exist to protect other motorists on the road.
The sleep apnea warning is another example of how routine medical issues can become deadly when affecting the driver of an 80,000 pound vehicle traveling down the road at 70 mph.
Risk factors including snoring and feeling sleepy during the day. Those who are overweight by 40 pounds or more are also at high risk. The disorder causes brief interruptions in breathing (as many as 400 times a night), and can be life-threatening if undiagnosed and untreated.
Astonishingly, the FMCSA reports as many as 28 percent of commercial drivers could have sleep apnea! While the condition is treatable, it can also disqualify a driver, which could be discouraging drivers from seeking treatment. Those with moderate or severe cases could be at highest risk for an accident.
When staying awake means staying alive, the fact that more than 1 in 4 drivers could be suffering from a sleep disorder is troubling, to say the least. Though it should not be surprising in a nation that is chronically sleep deprived:
- The average American sleeps less than 7 hours a night.
- Three-quarters of adults experience at least one symptom of a sleep disorder at least a few nights a week.
- More than one-third of adults report being so tired during the day that it interferes with their daily activities a few times a month or more.
- More than one-fourth report being sleepy at work at least two days a week.
- 1 in 5 admit to making errors at work.
- The majority admit that being sleepy makes work tasks more difficult.
- About half admit to driving while sleepy during the past year.
- As many as one-third admit to having dosed off while driving.
Medical conditions that may affect sleep include insomnia, restless legs syndrome, snoring, and sleep apnea.