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Truckers with untreated sleep apnea can fall asleep at the wheel

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2021 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

Sleep apnea is a common and frustrating medical condition. It involves unpredictable pauses in breathing during sleep. These gaps in breathing last 10 seconds or longer. Some people with sleep apnea may stop breathing as often as 400 times in one night.   

Obviously, sleep apnea disrupts the quality of sleep people experience and can lead to chronic fatigue. Sleep apnea can also cause other secondary consequences like difficulty concentrating. Unfortunately, sleep apnea can be particularly dangerous for people who operate heavy machinery for a living.   

Truck drivers with sleep apnea could easily cause a fatal collision with a smaller vehicle if they fall asleep at the wheel. Difficulty paying attention or quickly responding to traffic could also lead to a crash.  

More than a quarter of commercial truckers have sleep apnea 

According to research by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, approximately 28% of commercial truckers suffer from diagnosed sleep apnea. Others may drive without a proper diagnosis.  

Both undiagnosed and uncontrolled sleep apnea make can lead to a trucker causing a crash. Constantly waking up and struggling to get into REM sleep leads to fatigue. Feeling tired could mean that a truck driver eventually falls asleep at the wheel. They may be at higher risk for such issues because of how monotonous their job is. The sounds and physical rhythm of driving on the highway could put someone into a sleepy state and make it very easy for them to lose consciousness at the wheel.  

Health issues do contribute to a number of commercial trucking crashes  

Data about the causes of big truck crashes makes it clear that health issues experienced by drivers can directly contribute to collisions. About 12% of crashes caused by commercial drivers involve non-performance. That means that they didn’t make the right decision. Often, these issues result from medical experiences, like falling asleep at the wheel or having a stroke.  

While a driver can’t necessarily prevent a medical issue, they can make sure they receive the right diagnosis and treatment so it doesn’t impact the safety of others. Going to ask the right questions after a crash, including about the trucker’s health conditions, can help you get the compensation you deserve when a truck driver causes a crash.