When not controlled properly, sleep apnea can be a dangerous diagnosis. However, when you pair the ailment with a career that involves long hours driving a piece of heavy machinery—a car, bus, truck, airplane or ship—the result can be deadly.
As a condition, sleep apnea keeps people from achieving the level of sleep they require to function properly by causing the sufferer to quit breathing multiple times during the night. Specifically, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when a person’s airway becomes blocked by collapsed soft tissue in the throat. This interrupts breathing, causing the person to wake gasping for breath.
These breathing issues can occur hundreds of times per night, depriving victims’ organs of vital oxygen and leaving them exhausted during the day. It’s this exhaustion during work hours that makes driving heavy equipment so dangerous. Because of the fatigue level, sleep apnea is now considered as a factor when accidents occur.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) works closely with the commercial trucking industry to track the rates of trucking accidents. According to the FMCSA, of the 5,000 yearly driver deaths, over a quarter (1,400) are attributed to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and resulting drowsiness.
While sleep apnea isn’t specifically mentioned in the guidelines set by the FMCSA, drivers who have a medical history that could potentially “interfere with their ability to drive safely cannot be medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce.” With treatment, however, they can regain a “medically-qualified-to-drive” status.
With OSA contributing to a large percentage of trucking accidents, it’s important to be cautious on the road with commercial trucks. In the event you are involved in a crash with a commercial vehicle, see the assistance of an experienced attorney like Gilreath & Associates. Call us for a free consultation.
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