Sleep Apnea Could Lead to Serious Highway Accidents for Truckers

Highway safety depends in no small measure on the alertness of the nation’s truck drivers. When truckers are tired, serious accidents can occur. That’s why since 1939 federal law has limited the hours that truck drivers can be on the road, to ensure they spend enough of their off-duty time getting a good night’s sleep. However, even though these federal hours-of-service regulations require truckers to take time off to rest, they don’t necessarily sleep any better than other busy people. Notably, truckers suffer from sleep apnea at roughly the same rate as the general population, according to one recent study. Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes people to stop breathing numerous times during their sleep. Left untreated, it can cause fatigue, heart problems and even depression. Most importantly, sleep apnea can cause sleepiness during the day, and that spells trouble for anyone who drives for a living. A 2004 study of truckers with sleep apnea found no correlation between mild and moderate sleep apnea and an increased risk of a crash. But the study did find a connection between severe sleep apnea and severe crashes. Over the seven-year period studied, truckers with severe sleep apnea were more than four times more likely to be involved in a severe trucking accident. Federal regulations prevent anyone from operating a commercial motor vehicle if they have a condition likely to interfere with their ability to drive safely. “Moderate to severe” sleep apnea is enough to disqualify a driver, though a truck driver may resume driving after successful treatment of sleep apnea. If a history of untreated sleep apnea is found in a truck driver involved in an accident, it could mean liability on the part of the trucking company for allowing an unsafe employee on the roads. That’s why it’s important for anyone who has been hurt in an accident involving a commercial truck to retain a skilled personal injury attorney who can thoroughly research the circumstances of the case and advise you of your legal rights and options.