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Could Nearly Half of All Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Be at Risk of Sleep Apnea?

A new study based on small sample data suggests that sleep apnea could affect commercial truck drivers much more than previously thought. According to the study, nearly half of all commercial truck drivers may suffer from sleep apnea. If accurate, this could pose a serious danger to other motorists on the road who could be at risk of being harmed in collisions caused by tired drivers.

About the Truck Driver Study

Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute completed an obstructive sleep apnea study of 20,000 truck drivers to estimate the number who could be at risk for the condition. Previous studies indicated that undiagnosed sleep apnea affected between 7.2 percent and 30 percent of commercial truck drivers. The goal of the study was to get an accurate estimate of drivers with potential obstructive sleep apnea.

The researchers used a more comprehensive screening evaluation method as part of the study. This method is called the STOP-Bang method, which is an apnea screening tool that incorporates evaluates various risk factors including:

  • Observed apnea
  • Snoring
  • Tiredness
  • Hypertension
  • Body mass index
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Neck circumference

Researchers presented their findings at a Transportation Research Board committee meeting on Jan. 11, 2021. They revealed that out of the 20,000 drivers who were tested, 9,382 had “apnea potential” and 9,639 did not. The number of apnea potential drivers represented about 49 percent of the total number of drivers tested. They concluded that the drivers who were evaluated for the study and found to have potential apnea were at a greater risk of being involved in motor vehicle crashes and of committing moving violations.

Dangers of Commercial Truck Drivers with Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical disorder associated with the blockage of the upper airway for bouts of 10 seconds or more. During these bouts, the person with sleep apnea has low oxygen levels and high blood concentrations of carbon monoxide. People with the condition often wake up gasping for air, leading to inadequate sleep.

Commercial truck drivers often suffer from a lack of access to healthy food, perform little exercise, and drive for long hours, all factors that contribute to the development of various medical conditions, including sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea can cause serious consequences on the road since drivers with this condition often do not get enough sleep. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explains that fatigued drivers often demonstrate driving behaviors and symptoms similar to impaired driving, including:

  • Difficulty maintaining proper speeds and braking
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Increased probability of falling sleeping behind the wheel
  • Difficulty making decisions

Help from an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney

If you were injured in a collision involving a commercial truck driver you suspect was fatigued, the experienced truck accident attorneys at Ketterman Rowland & Westlund can help. We can investigate your claim and determine all the factors that contributed to your accident. We will fight for you to recover maximum compensation. Contact us today to learn more about your legal rights and your options for recovery.