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Would Stricter Screening for Sleep Apnea Help Prevent Truck Crashes?

Many studies have shown that fatigued driving is a major contributor to truck accidents – both in Hollywood and across the country. Some people feel that preventing these types of collisions in South Florida and across the nation may be as simple as changing Hours of Service rules and ensuring that truck drivers get enough sleep.

The solutions might not be so simple. For some truckers with a condition known as sleep apnea, fatigue is a daily reality no matter how many hours they sleep. This condition, when untreated, threatens drivers’ livelihoods and the safety of other motorists on the road.

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What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious and potentially life-threatening sleep disorder. Sufferers have their breathing interrupted for up to ten seconds at a time while they sleep. These interruptions in breathing can happen hundreds of times a night, and while in many cases they won’t wake the sleeper up, it does leave the sufferer exhausted during the day. People who face sleep apnea may be more prone to extreme fatigue, falling asleep during the day, cardiac issues, high blood pressure, and other serious problems.

In many cases, sleep apnea goes untreated and undiagnosed because the symptoms are so vague. Patients may become used to a certain level of fatigue and may not realize something is wrong. High blood pressure and other effects of the condition may not be linked to sleep apnea, meaning it never gets treated.

Getting Tired Drivers off the Road

Obviously, truck drivers are especially at risk if they have sleep apnea. They may fall asleep at the wheel or may be so tired they make preventable mistakes that lead to collisions. Despite the dangers, some experts say that too little is being done to get drivers help. Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to screen truck drivers for sleep apnea more closely. So far, no steps have been taken to tighten the rules for sleep apnea.

Under current regulations, FMCSA-approved medical examiners can screen truck drivers for their risk of sleep apnea, but the guidelines are not strict. In most cases, it is up to the medical examiner’s discretion about how and when to test drivers for this condition. Training for medical examiners does explain how BMI, neck size, and other risk factors can indicate a risk for sleep apnea, but there’s no legal requirement for medical examiners to test for this condition.

What are your rights if you’re injured by a fatigued driver? What are your rights if the driver has sleep apnea? Commercial trucking accidents tend to be legally complex, so if you are injured in a roadway collision, contact Flaxman Law Group for a free consultation to discuss your situation. Our team has more than 60 years of combined experience and we would be happy to offer a thorough review of your situation. We are proud to serve the entire South Florida area and are honored to get a chance to assist those who have been injured.