Because they spend hours and days on end behind the wheel, a major concern regarding truck drivers is fatigued driving. When a driver becomes seriously fatigued, the effects can be similar to intoxication, as a driver will lose the ability to focus on the road, will have slower reflexes, and will have lessened decision-making skills. In addition, if a truck driver falls asleep behind the wheel, a massive vehicle that potentially weighs 80,000 pounds will be barreling out of control down the highway, possibly taking out anything in its path.
A main culprit of fatigued driving is the long hours on the often monotonous highway. In response to this, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted and enforces strict hours of service limitations, which restrict the number of consecutive hours or days a truck driver can be working without taking a certain period of rest. However, even with hours of service regulations, truck accidents continue to occur due to fatigued drivers.
Recently, the FMCSA has been paying closer attention to a health condition that may be contributing to fatigued driving among commercial drivers – obstructive sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition that reportedly affects approximately 22 million people across the United States. The condition causes a pause in breathing during sleep and these pauses can happen hundreds of times in a single night. When the person stops breathing, they will wake up briefly to restart their breathing. This means that people with obstructive sleep apnea may involuntarily wake up as much as 30 times per hour during the night and such disruptive sleep can leave a person highly fatigued throughout the day.
While sleep apnea is treatable, many people fail to seek a proper diagnosis or they do not follow up on treatment. The FMCSA is concerned about this because there is a high rate of sleep apnea among truck drivers. In fact, the agency estimates that 28 percent of commercial truck drivers have sleep apnea, while many others are still undiagnosed. This rate is high because many truck drivers have numerous risk factors for developing sleep apnea, including the following:
- Being overweight
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Being over the age of 40
- Smoking and drinking
All truck drivers should recognize the signs that they may be suffering from sleep apnea, which include loud snoring, headaches in the morning, daytime fatigue, and more. They should get screened for sleep apnea and should receive all of the recommended treatment. If sleep apnea is not properly diagnosed or treated, the truck driver is at risk of fatigue while driving and causing a collision.
The FMCSA has responded to new research regarding the effects of sleep apnea on driving and is considering starting a program that mandates testing for sleep apnea. While every driver must currently pass a general physical examination to obtain or renew a commercial driver’s license, there are no specific requirements that they be screened for sleep apnea. The FMCSA may change that and may specifically require that the physical exam includes testing for sleep apnea to help increase the percentage of sufferers who are properly diagnosed and treated to lessen the risks of truck accidents and injuries.
Until new regulations are actually enacted, finding out whether a commercial driver has sleep apnea can help you demonstrate that the driver was fatigued was the accident occurred. If you can prove that the driver was negligently driving while fatigued, you are likely entitled to hold that driver responsible for all of your injuries and injury-related losses, including medical bills and lost income.
Contact an Experienced Fort Lauderdale Truck Accident Lawyer for Help
At The Law Office of Joseph J. LoRusso, PA, we know how difficult it can be to prove that a truck driver was negligent after an accident. We have the resources needed to prove negligence such as fatigued driving and we will keep working for you until you receive the maximum possible compensation after your accident. Our truck accident attorney has successfully taken on trucking companies in court and we will stand up for your rights. Please call our office at (954) 715-3260 for a free consultation today.