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Truck Crashes: A Look at the Possible Link Between Sleep Apnea and Truck Accidents

by  on  Accident Attorney

Lawmakers and safety officials are starting to focus more and more on the health of truckers after the release of a new study. According to the Commercial Carrier Journal, a study published on March 21, 2016 in the medical journal Sleep took a look at the possible link between truck accidents and drivers suffering from obstructed sleep apnea.

The study ultimately revealed that untreated obstructed sleep apnea places drivers at five times greater risk of collisions than those without the medical problem.

What is Obstructed Sleep Apnea?

Obstructed sleep apnea (OSA) is actually a pretty common condition whereby those individuals suffering with it will move from deep sleep to light sleep when their breathing becomes too shallow, or they will pause for various lengths of time (sometimes minutes) between breaths.

OSA sufferers who are found to have moderate to severe versions of the condition are usually treated with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines that cover the individual’s nose and mouth (or sometimes only the nose) with a mask that blows air into the throat to keep his or her airways open while sleeping.

A Look at the Study Data

The study was conducted by researchers from Harvard, the University of Minnesota and Boston’s Morris, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. A little over 3,500 truck drivers took part in the study, and a comparison was taken between the over 1,600 truckers who were suffering from OSA and the remaining truckers who likely did not have the condition. They looked at the occurrence of preventable major truck crashes for every 100,000 miles driven between the two groups.

Truckers with OSA were split into three sections: those who totally abided by the requirement to use the CPAP; those who partially complied with use of the machine and those who never received treatment for the condition.

The study revealed that the collision rate was five times higher for truckers who did not adhere to the CPAP treatment than it was for those drivers who didn’t suffer from the condition. Also, the study showed that there was no difference between the crash rate of drivers who fully complied with the CPAP treatment and those who did not have the condition.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and asked for comments after addressing truck drivers suffering from the condition. Many of the comments received were from truckers who believed that mandatory OSA screening would be an intrusion. The public is allowed to respond on the subject as well.

In general, truck drivers are required to take a medical exam (or fitness exam) every two years to show whether or not they have the ability to safely operate a truck. Currently, however, the tests do not include mandatory OSA screening.

A University of Minnesota professor notes that this is mainly due to the fact that no one has ever really examined crash rates in relation to the effects of OSA in truckers before. Whether or not OSA screening will become mandatory remains to be seen.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, contact a Denver truck accident attorney at Levine Law today to discuss your rights and options.