Sleep Apnea and Its Impact on Hampton, Virginia Truck Accidents

Virginia Truck Accident Lawyer

One of the most common factors in commercial truck accidents is driver fatigue. These crashes are happening at an alarming rate, despite federal regulations that limit the number of hours a driver can be on the road. And one of the main causes of driver fatigue crashes is that the truck driver is suffering from sleep apnea, a recognized medical condition that tragically many sufferers do not even realize they have.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by interruptions in breathing during sleep, leading to fragmented sleep patterns and reduced oxygen intake. While this condition affects millions of individuals across the globe, it poses a unique and significant risk to commercial truck drivers. The connection between sleep apnea and commercial truck accidents is a growing concern, as fatigue and impaired alertness can have dire consequences on the road.

There are two different types of sleep apnea. When a person has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), they stop breathing for brief periods of time while they are sleeping. OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea and occurs when the airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep. This leads to loud snoring, pauses in breathing, and frequent awakenings, preventing the individual from achieving restorative sleep.

When an individual is suffering from central sleep apnea (CSA), their breathing stops and starts multiple times during sleep because their brain cannot send proper signals to the muscles of the body that control breathing. CSA is less common and is often associated with certain medical conditions.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that needs treatment in order to alleviate the symptoms. Although both men and women of all ages can develop the condition, there are certain factors that make people more susceptible. These include:

  • Alcohol use
  • Being overweight
  • Large neck size
  • Small upper airway
  • Smoking

Some of the symptoms that could indicate the unsuspecting individual could be suffering from sleep apnea include:

  • Chronic sleepiness during the daytime hours
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings

Truck Drivers and Sleep Apnea

Commercial truck drivers are more at risk of developing sleep apnea than other professions. This is due to the long hours they spend sitting and driving their rigs. Studies have found that approximately 35 percent of all truck drivers have some form of the condition. When a driver is suffering from sleep apnea, they can be a danger to everyone on the road around them. Many truck accidents have occurred because the condition caused the truck driver to:

  • Fall asleep while they were driving.
  • Had a difficult time concentrating and staying focused on the road in front of them.
  • Impaired their judgment.
  • Slowed their reaction time.

Sleep apnea leads to excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue, impairing a driver’s ability to stay alert and attentive on the road. Fatigued drivers are more likely to make critical errors and react slowly to sudden traffic changes.

Studies have shown that individuals with untreated sleep apnea are at a significantly higher risk of being involved in accidents. The impairment in cognitive functions and reaction times is akin to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

A significant challenge is the high prevalence of undiagnosed sleep apnea among truck drivers. Many may not be aware of their condition or choose not to seek treatment due to concerns about their livelihood or job security.

Regulatory bodies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have recognized the potential risks of this condition in commercial drivers. Guidelines have been established to address testing and treatment requirements, but there is ongoing debate about the extent of regulation needed.

For truck drivers diagnosed with sleep apnea, adhering to treatment regimens, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, can be challenging due to the nature of their profession and lifestyle.

Call Our Hampton, VA Personal Injury Law Firm for a Free Consult

If you or a loved one has been injured in a commercial truck accident, contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to see what legal recourse you may have for your pain and losses. Our skilled Hampton, VA truck accident attorneys have successfully represented many clients who were injured in truck accidents, including a $350,000 insurance settlement for one client who suffered a fractured kneecap and multiple serious cuts and bruises when a truck driver failed to yield the right of way and turned left in front of our client’s minivan.

Our firm also offers a free truck accident guide that addresses such issues as federal trucking violations, commercial truck insurance, and common tactics used by commercial carriers to reduce or deny the damages a truck accident victim may be entitled to.