Experts say that evidence is mounting that many truck drivers may suffer from sleep apnea, which can cause dangerous levels of fatigue in truckers, pilots, train engineers and other workers who need to be alert on the job.
Sleep apnea is a common condition where the airway closes many times while the person is aslep. This can interrupt their breathing dozens of time in the night. The person may not be aware of the interruption, but it can leave him exhausted and prone to nodding off during the day. Behind the wheel of a tractor trailer, this can have catastrophic and fatal results.
Since 2008, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has recommended that truck drivers get checked every few years to see if they have sleep apnea. The NTSB states that sleep apnea is a common problem across the US transportation industry.
Risk of getting sleep apnea increases with weight gain. At least 2/3 of truck drivers are obese, a recent federal study reports. Other studies indicate that truck drivers are more likely to be overweight than workers in other fields. Research also shows that sleep deprivation can lead to higher truck crash risks. Even being moderately tired can impair a truck driver as much as being legally drunk. A Harvard study also has found that truck drivers with sleep apnea are 5 time more likely to crash than other drivers.
As experienced Virginia and North Carolina truck crash attorneys, we are very aware of the great dangers of a truck driver falling asleep behind the wheel. Our personal injury and wrongful death attorneys have represented many clients whose lives were devastated by a major tractor trailer accident.
We represented a couple in Virginia Beach a few years ago whose vehicle was essentially run over by a tractor trailer while they were sitting at a stop sign. The truck driver may have fallen asleep while driving, and he slammed into our clients’ car at 40 MPH. He left the two children in the back seat with traumatic brain injuries.
The defense tried to claim that he passed out due to a medicla condition before the crash. The police who worked the scene thought the man just fell asleep. Also, no doctor ever found that the trucker suffered from a medical condition that would have caused him to pass out.
Our team was pleased to obtain a $5.5 million settlement for the couple and their children, but we wish that all truck drivers would be certain that they are well rested before they start to drive.