Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition. Long haul truckers with this medical issue are time bombs.
New sleep apnea regulations are slated to be put in place, sometime this year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Sleep apnea causes truckers to have accidents, and the long and short of it is this condition may be deadly, as the outcome of a truck hitting a smaller vehicle is a foregone, horrific conclusion.
Sleep apnea, also referred to as obstructive sleep apnea happens when a person’s breathing temporarily stops. This affects the exchange of oxygen in the lungs, due to the fact that throat muscles have relaxed so much, they block your airway while sleeping. The logical conclusion of a night of sleeping, starting awake, sleeping and starting awake is that the next morning the individual is extremely tired. For truckers suffering from sleep apnea, the extreme fatigue heightens their risk of falling asleep at the wheel, losing control of their rig and getting involved in an accident.
According to statistics released by the FMCSA, there is an average of approximately 750 deaths every year, and close to 20,000 injuries sustained in wrecks caused by a trucker drifting off behind the wheel. In order to reduce the number of preventable collisions, the FMCSA is working to understand how sleep apnea works, and what factors contribute to it.
For instance, studies to date have indicated that truckers with small airways, a body mass index of 35 or higher, a recessed or smaller jaw, with necks more than 17 inches for men and 15.5 inches for women, treated or untreated hypertension and Type 2 diabetes and untreated hypothyroidism may be at risk for sleep apnea.
Once the federal government understands more about this issue, their plan is to write rules relating to truckers and how they are expected to treat it. The most common treatment for this condition is using a Constant Positive Airway Pressure that directs an uninterrupted flow of oxygen to the lungs while the person is sleeping.
The interesting thing about this move towards understanding and dealing with sleep apnea in truckers is the industry’s disenchantment with the proposed rules and regulations. One would think they would welcome a way to reduce the number of accidents, injuries and deaths.
Instead, they consider them to be too expensive and don’t see how they would cut down the number of accidents. If they think medications, or other methods of dealing with sleep apnea, are ‘more’ expensive than a wrongful death lawsuit or a personal injury lawsuit with catastrophic, life-altering injuries, they are on the wrong planet.
Getting into an accident with a big rig is deadly – period. If this has happened to you, do not wait to talk to an experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer. Time is of the essence in accidents of this nature, and you want to make sure the scene is preserved and documented properly, before evidence may mysteriously vanish.
Tim Anderson writes for Atlanta Personal Injury attorney, Stephen M. Ozcomert. The firm specializes in personal injury, malpractice, motorcycle accidents, and wrongful death. To learn more about Atlanta personal injury lawyer, Stephen M. Ozcomert, visit Ozcomert.com.