Sleep Disorder Truck Crashes

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Are tired drivers more likely to crash?  The answer is yes, according to a Missouri study released in May.

The University of Missouri School of Engineering study (“Sleep Disorders and Risk of Traffic Crashes: A Naturalistic Driving Study Analysis”) found that those working overnight hours are more likely to suffer from a serious sleep disorder, known as “shift work sleep disorder.”

They also determined that these tired drivers are three times more likely to be in a motor vehicle crash.

Drivers with Sleep Disorders More Likely to Crash

Researchers found drivers suffering from other common sleep disorders also were more likely to crash:

  • Drivers suffering from sleep apnea – 29% more likely to crash or nearly crash
  • Drivers suffering from insomnia – 33% more likely to crash or nearly crash

They concluded that drivers suffering “shift work sleep disorder” were the likeliest to crash of the three chronic medical conditions.

It’s been estimated that up to 10% of overnight workers suffer from “shift work sleep disorder” and, according to this study’s findings, are potentially dangerously tired drivers.

Graveyard shift factor workers are included in this group. Another potential group is certain truck drivers based on the cargo they carry and the types of businesses they work for.  So, this sleep disorder may be responsible for a portion of serious overnight delivery truck accidents that occur.

But sleep disorders have been shown to increase the risk of crashes for drivers of all types and sizes of commercial trucks.

Truck Drivers with Sleep Apnea

A 2016 study (“Non-Adherence with Employer-Mandated Sleep Apnea Treatment and Increased Risk of Serious Truck Crashes”) found that truck drivers with untreated sleep apnea are five times more likely to be in a serious crash. The study estimated that a group of 1,000 truck drivers with untreated sleep apnea would have 70 preventable serious accidents in a year.

One of the researchers also noted fatigued driving accounts for an estimated 9,000 motor vehicle crash deaths per year.

Newer research, presented in January of this year to the Transportation Research Board according to numerous media reports, found that nearly half (47%) of commercial truck drivers may have or are at significant risk for obstructive sleep apnea. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study tested 20,000 commercial truck drivers and determined 9,382 potentially had sleep apnea.

The researchers measured the drivers’ potential for sleep apnea using several different indicators, including:

  • Body mass index
  • Hypertension
  • Age
  • Neck circumference
  • Snoring
  • Tiredness

Obstructive sleep apnea briefly interrupts sleep repeatedly each night. As a result, those suffering from obstructive sleep apnea often are very tired during the day and can lack focus.

Commercial truck drivers are likely to have several of the known sleep apnea risk factors, such as:

  • Excess weight
  • Being male
  • Older age

Federal Hours of Service rules designate how many hours per day and week commercial truckers can drive.  They are designed to keep fatigued truck drivers off the road.  But truckers with sleep apnea can adhere to the rules and still be dangerously tired since their sleep is unproductive.

Many commercial truck drivers, such as those operating rigs weighing more than 10,000 pounds, must undergo a medical physical at least every two years. However, they are not required to be screened for sleep apnea.

Tired truckers are dangerous truckers. Companies that knowingly put fatigued or medically unfit truck drivers on the road are just as dangerous.

If you were seriously injured or you had a family member die in a crash involving a commercial truck, speak with a truck accident lawyer about your legal rights to just compensation from those responsible.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles August 5, 2021

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