Some Oregon Truck Accidents May Be Prevented By Testing Truck Drivers for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The Cambridge Health Alliance is recommending that truck drivers be tested for obstructive sleep apnea. The condition, which makes individuals prone to exhaustion and falling asleep during the daytime, can be deadly in the trucker line of work.

Drivers are already on the road for hours at a time and may be exhausted from working such long shifts or irregular hours. Compounding their fatigue with a greater chance of dozing off behind the wheel of a semi-truck, a tractor-trailer, or an 18-wheeler truck does not bode well for the truck driver or the motorists or pedestrians around him or her and can result in catastrophic truck collisions.

About 2.4 million to 3.9 million commercial truckers in the United States have OSA. Some experts, however, believe that this estimate may be rather low—especially as many truck drivers don’t even know that they are suffering from sleep apnea.

A trucker afflicted with sleep apnea has a seven fold greater chance of becoming involved in a traffic accident. According to the Divided Attention Driving Test, a person who has sleep apnea may exhibit driving behaviors similar to someone who is driving drunk—meaning that their ability to drive responsibly and safely can become severely impaired.

The Cambridge Health Alliance is also reporting a noticeable connection between obesity and obstructive sleep apnea. Findings of their study, which confirms that obesity-driven test strategies can help identify the truck drivers that are at risk of having OSA, can be found in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The study recommends making OSA screenings mandatory for commercially licensed truck drivers. Meantime, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering whether to require all obese truckers to undergo sleep apnea screenings.

In 2006, an article in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine reported that many of the approximately 5,600 commercial truck crash-related deaths that occur in the US every year happen because a trucker fell asleep behind the wheel. Identifying the truck drivers that are more prone to drift off behind the wheel because they have OSA could save lives.

Obesity Linked To Dangerous Sleep Apnea In Truck Drivers, Science Daily, March 12, 2009
Many Commercial Drivers Have Impaired Performance Due To Lack Of Sleep, Science Daily, August 16, 2006
A Study of Prevalence of Sleep Apnea Among Commercial Truck Drivers, FMCSA
Related Web Resources:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Sleep Disorder Channel
Sleep Apnea, National Institute of Health

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