Researchers from the University of Minnesota have confirmed that sleep apnea is a considerable safety issue for truck drivers and those near them on the road. Falling asleep behind the wheel has been a consistent problem in the truck industry for decades. Long hours, a lack of sleep, and other factors contribute to drivers falling asleep while navigating their large trucks. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, fatigue causes about 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle accidents.
What Did the Study Find?
The research from the University of Minnesota examined how well an employer-mandated obstructive sleep apnea program mitigated the risk of preventable truck crashes. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common cause of fatigue or sleepiness during the day. This form of apnea occurs when throat muscles relax and block a person’s airway during sleep. It’s a serious condition that doctors have linked to issues with attention, memory, vigilance, and cognitive function.
The University of Minnesota found the following for truck accidents between 2004 and 2013:
- Driver fatigue caused 3,133 to 8,952 deaths
- Driver fatigue injured between 77,000 to 220,000 people.
Researchers conducting the experiment suspect that approximately 17 percent to 28 percent of truck drivers suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Many of these drivers have not received a sleep apnea diagnosis or are untreated for their condition.
After completing their experiment, the researchers found that truck drivers with untreated sleep apnea were five times more likely to cause a preventable accident than those who received treatment. The researchers concluded their findings by mentioning that the federal government does not require truck drivers with sleep apnea to receive treatment for it. So, even if employers introduce an obstructive sleep apnea program, drivers would not be required to participate in it and could easily drive for a company that does not have a program.
Should Sleep Apnea Tests Be Required to Drive a Truck?
According to the Star Tribune, industry-wide testing and treatment of sleep apnea could cost between $740 million and $12.8 billion. The Obama Administration supported mandatory sleep apnea screenings. However, the current administration has rolled back efforts to have the tests required due to a commitment to deregulation across all parts of the government. Despite this setback, the issue still has supporters in Washington D.C., and congressional hearings occurred discussing the subject earlier this spring.
If you’ve suffered because of a drowsy or fatigued truck driver, Arnold & Itkin is ready to help. Speak to our truck accident lawyers at (888) 490-0442 for a free consultation right now.