The National Sleep Foundation released its 2012 Sleep in America poll recently, which for the first time surveyed the sleeping habits of commercial truck drivers and others who work in the transportation industry. The results of the poll are alarming: nearly half the truck drivers surveyed said they rarely get a good night’s sleep, and one in six admitted to experiencing a “near miss” on the road caused by sleepiness.
Worse still, some commentators have observed that the actual prevalence of fatigued driving among truckers may be even higher, because 73 percent of those surveyed were short-haul rather than long-haul truck drivers. Much like alcohol intoxication, fatigue increases the risk of accidents by impairing a driver’s judgment, alertness, vision and reaction times. Because a semi can weigh up to 40 tons, or 16 times more than an average passenger vehicle, the danger of severe accidents caused by fatigue is especially high when commercial truck drivers are involved.
Sleep Apnea Increases Fatigued Driving Risks
While fatigue and drowsiness are a major safety concern for all commercial truck drivers, the risks are even greater among truckers who suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes an afflicted person to stop breathing for brief, repeated periods while sleeping. The breathing disruptions may occur up to 400 times per night, depriving the individual of restful sleep and causing him or her to be drowsy or nod off at inappropriate times during the day.
The Federal Motor Carrier Association estimates that as many as 28 percent of licensed commercial drivers have sleep apnea. Studies show that truck drivers with sleep apnea are much more likely than other drivers to be involved in accidents, and federal regulations permit disqualification of drivers with moderate to severe sleep apnea. However, many people with sleep apnea are unaware that they have the disorder.
To help prevent truck accidents caused by drowsy driving, the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended stricter regulations aimed at identifying drivers at risk for sleep apnea and obtaining special medical certification for drivers affected by the condition.
Legal Help for Accident Victims
People who are hurt in accidents caused by fatigued driving may be able to receive compensation for their injuries, medical bills and other expenses. To learn more about the legal options available after a fatigued driving crash, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.