Drowsy driving is dangerous for all drivers, but when a drowsy driver gets behind the wheel of a commercial truck, the results can be catastrophic. For commercial truck drivers, the risk of drowsy driving is increased by several factors, one of them being Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). In an effort to reduce the risk of trucking accidents related to drowsy driving, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has submitted a proposal to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to mandate OSA screening for all commercial truck drivers.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported 328,000 accidents related to drowsy driving in 2014 that resulted in over 100,000 injuries and 6,000 fatalities. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a common cause for overwhelming fatigue that plagues many people. The airway of people with OSA is cut off while sleeping, causing the person to actually stop breathing for up to 10 seconds. This triggers the individual to awaken, which results in a continuous cycle of sleep deprivation. In some cases, a person can be awakened as many as 400 times per night.
As OSA continues to interrupt the sleep patterns of a victim, the overwhelming fatigue results in poor focus and concentration as well as periods where the victim falls asleep unexpectedly. A truck driver suffering from OSA is at a high risk of falling asleep behind the wheel, leaving everyone on the road at risk of serious and often fatal truck accidents. Mandatory testing for OSA will identify truck drivers who suffer from the disorder, and enable them to receive treatment that effectively manages the condition.
In a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, FMCSA, and the American Transportation Research Institute of the American Trucking Association, almost 30 percent of all truck drivers studied had mild to severe OSA. Obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption are some of the biggest risk factors contributing to OSA. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety found that truck drivers had a 70 percent increased rate of obesity and reported a higher than average rate of smoking and alcohol consumption. These factors combined with ethnicity, a family history of OSA, and possible anatomical abnormalities such as a recessed chin, small airway, or large overbite can contribute to severe OSA.
The period for public comment and opinion on the proposal for mandated OSA screening has ended, and the NTSB in conjunction with the FMCSA will decide whether to pursue new legislation for all truck, bus, and railway operators. Opponents to the proposal question the link between OSA and increased truck accidents, and are calling for more studies specific to this claim. Officials with FMCSA and NTSB agree that there is more work to be done before the mandate becomes law. Screening requirements and treatment options are still being considered in the proposed mandate.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a truck or car accident involving a drowsy driver, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced team of Philadelphia truck accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP is committed to helping injured victims claim the justice and compensation they deserve.
Call us at 1-800-222-USWA (8792), or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our offices are located in Philadelphia, Center Valley, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania and we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.