One of the top causes of truck accidents is fatigued driving on the part of the truck driver. Transportation safety advocates have discovered that many truck drivers suffer from undiagnosed sleep apnea. They say this could be a great contributor to the increase in the number of these accidents taking place on the nation’s roadways. One study found that untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of serious, preventable crashes by an incredible 500 percent.
Sleep apnea has also played a role in many railroad accidents over the past several years. Risk factors for the condition include being male, middle-aged or older, and obese. People who suffer from sleep apnea are repeatedly awakened as they struggle to breathe because their airways close as they are sleeping. This constant interruption of sleep leads to dangerous daytime fatigue. Wearing a pressurized mask, nasal strips, or oral appliance are some common treatments that help keep a person’s airways open. In server cases, the person may need surgery to correct the condition.
Although there was some push by the U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) for more testing for both truck drivers and train operators for sleep apnea, any initiatives for testing were recently dropped. The DOT claims that the issue can be addressed with regulations that are currently in place.
According to a statement from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration, inadequately treated or untreated sleep apnea can cause “. . . unintended sleep episodes and resulting deficits in attention, concentration, situational awareness, and memory, thus reducing the capacity to safely respond to hazards when performing safety-sensitive duties.”
Despite these findings, the DOT is leaving it up to truck and rail companies to determine how sleep apnea testing and treatment should be addressed. The question many safety experts are asking is will these companies actually address the issue.
The problem appears to be prevalent among transportation employees. For example, one rail company that began testing for sleep apnea discovered that almost 12 percent of their train engineers had undiagnosed sleep apnea.
Let a Virginia Injury Attorney Help
If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking or other type of transportation accident, contact a Virginia truck accident attorney to see what legal recourse you may have. These types of accident claims can be more complex than other types of vehicle accidents because there are often multiple at-fault parties that are responsible for financial damages victims may be entitled to. Our Virginia accident attorneys have extensive legal experience helping truck and train accident victims and are available to meet and discuss your case and how we can help.