Commercial truck drivers spend significant time on the road, often driving late at night to avoid traffic and make faster drive times. While long trips with little daylight might make the average driver drowsy, the risk of falling asleep while driving is increased when the driver has sleep apnea.
Although many truck drivers argue that they have never fallen asleep behind the wheel, the disorder can still affect a driver’s alertness and reaction times if left untreated, potentially causing vehicle accidents and crash-related injuries and fatalities. In response to this risk, many rules and regulations have been proposed to combat truck driver fatigue, including laws that regulate the number of hours a driver can spend on the road without sleeping, as well as laws that prevent drivers with severe forms of the disorder from driving until receiving effective treatment.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that interferes with oxygen exchange and causes people to briefly stop breathing while asleep. The disorder can range from mild to severe. Truck drivers who drive with untreated sleep apnea may experience reduced alertness and the ability to focus on the road. People with symptoms such as loud snoring, choking while sleeping, headaches, nausea, excessive fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, or disturbed sleep may participate in sleep apnea screenings.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Many people assume that sleep apnea affects only those men who are older and overweight. However, this is not true. It’s possible for both genders and people of all ages and all body types to suffer from this condition. The following are traits that can increase your risk of having sleep apnea:
- A genetic history of sleep apnea
- Frequent use of alcohol or tobacco products
- A small upper airway
- Physiological factors, such as having a recessed chin or a large overbite
- Being over the age of 40
Individuals suffering from sleep apnea can take steps to reduce the symptoms they experience by losing weight and abstaining from alcohol. Commercial truck drivers with sleep apnea should consult with a physician and receive safety clearance before returning to work.
If you have been injured in a truck driving accident and would like to learn more about federal and state regulations for drowsy driving and your legal rights, contact us today.