In December we touched on fatigue as a causative factor in trucking accidents and the use of trucking data to show violation of hours of service (HORS) regulations.

Fatigue can be a factor in any transportation, industrial or other accident. Time and again, research shows lack of sleep slows reaction time, affects visual and cognitive perception and degrades communication, coordination and decision-making abilities.

But sometimes fatigue is a symptom, not just a cause. The Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMSCA) recognizes sleep apnea is a serious condition affecting one-third of commercial drivers. Increasing the risk of accident for sufferers, fellow travelers and those sharing the road, sleep apnea can cause symptoms including:

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Inattention
  • Dozing off
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Other deficiencies related to fatigue

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by a fitful sleep of gasps and snoring. Breathing pauses are caused by soft palate obstructions of the upper respiratory tract or by disordered messages from the brain during sleep. Sleep apnea lowers blood oxygen levels, strains the cardiovascular system and contributes to serious conditions like high blood pressure and the possibility of stroke.

Given disrupted sleep cycles, commercial drivers are prone to sleep apnea. But the condition can afflict anyone, including those with the following risk factors:

  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Overweight
  • Large neck size
  • Anatomical features like recessed chin or small jaw
  • Smoking and alcohol use
  • Over age 40

Driving fatigued is driving impaired. See your doctor if drowsy during the day. And be careful on the road — the other guy just might be asleep at the wheel. Personal injury lawyers help protect the rights of those injured in accidents caused by the negligence, carelessness or recklessness of others.

By Kevin Quinn

Posted in Personal Injury