The Connection Between Trucking Accidents and Sleep Apnea

Truck Accidents and Sleep Apnea

When a commercial truck is involved in an accident with a passenger vehicle or even another truck, the potential for serious injuries or death is very high. 

In Alabama, from 2017 to 2021, an average of 130 people lost their lives in Alabama truck collisions, according to TRIP, the National Transportation Research Group. Nationwide in the U.S., large truck-involved crashes increased 18 percent during those years.

When a large commercial truck or tractor-trailer weighing up to 80,000 pounds collides with a passenger car weighing around 5,000 pounds, it’s easy to see why automobile passengers suffer more devastating injuries.

Even though they are still on the road, it’s estimated that one-third to three-quarters of commercial truck drivers suffer from some form of sleep apnea. The industry has been aware of this problem, but no mandatory action is pending to keep these dangerous drivers off the road.

Trucking Accidents and Sleep Apnea

Studies show that drowsiness and the resulting lack of concentration lead to traffic accidents. Consider driving your car when you are sleep-deprived. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 5 percent of drivers in 12 states reported falling asleep behind the wheel in the past month.

Imagine if you are driving an 80,000-pound vehicle when that happens.

Many truck drivers may not be aware they suffer from sleep apnea. Others may not want to be strapped to a CPAP machine at night, which helps regulate breathing.

According to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders, tired drivers may contribute to 36 percent of all fatal traffic crashes and up to 54 percent of auto accidents. 

Drowsy drivers display a lack of concentration and a slower reaction time. Those suffering from sleep apnea were involved in traffic accidents twice to three times higher than the general population. Swerving and rear-ending the vehicle ahead may indicate the driver was sleeping or distracted.

Anyone who sees a commercial vehicle swerve on the road should get as far away as possible.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a breathing-related disorder that disrupts nighttime sleep, interrupts restful sleep, and leaves people tired during the day. The interruption can last ten seconds, be fatal, or occur up to 400 times in one night. It is a condition that often goes undiagnosed but can manifest during the day with a devastating result. 

Obesity and its related medical conditions are endemic among truck drivers. An article in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports almost one-third of commercial truck drivers suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea. 

Risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • Being overweight
  • A family history of sleep apnea
  • Age 40 or older
  • Having a small upper airway
  • Having a recessed chin, small jaw, or large overbite
  • Smoking and use of alcohol
  • Having a large neck size of 17 inches or greater for men
  • Driving through the night
  • Certain medications
  • Sleeping six hours or less a night
  • Driving alone

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

How does one know they have sleep apnea? There are specific symptoms to look for, including:

  • Loud snoring
  • Choking while sleeping
  • Morning headaches and nausea
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Depression and irritability
  • Memory problem
  • Problems with concentration
  • Frequent nighttime urination

You can receive a proper diagnosis at a sleep center. You may have to spend the night there while monitors indicate if you are having trouble sleeping through the night. You may be disqualified from driving if you have a mild, moderate, or severe level of sleep apnea.

Your Alabama Trucking Accident Attorney

For a commercial carrier to overlook that condition in his drivers can place the company at risk for liability if a personal injury lawsuit is filed following a truck accident with his commercial vehicle. 

Truck Accident Attorney Chip Nix will include checking the driving record of any commercial driver involved in a trucking accident as well as the hiring practices of his employer. 

Attorney Nix will investigate every aspect of your Alabama trucking case to determine if safety protocols were followed, including the hours-of-service rules limiting the number of hours a driver can safely stay on the road without sleeping. 

Attorney Nix will help you seek justice if you or a loved one were injured in a trucking accident. Call his Mobile office at (334) 203-6669 to arrange a complimentary consultation on your case. 







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