Sleepy Truck Drivers Are Predictable Killers
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Sleepy Truck Drivers Are Predictable Killers

Friday, January 08, 2010By Richard Alexander

When a truck that weighs 80,000 pounds crashes into a passenger car, the  severe personal injuries and deaths follow. Only in the rarest circumstances can a person in even the safest car walk away uninjured after being hit by a  truck.

Reports of the carnage involving trucks frequently use the word “accident”, but these horrible crashes are not accidents. They’re the predictable consequences of dangerous choices that truck drivers make. Whether it is driving after drinking alcohol or ignoring a medical condition that causes them to fall asleep at the wheel.

After a crash, many truck drivers say, “I never saw the other vehicle”, and they’re telling the truth. Many truck crashes involve drivers who suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a condition that causes them to fall asleep at the wheel. Driving with OSA is a potentially fatal behavior that endangers everyone on the road, including the driver, and studies have found that as many as 2.4 - 3.9 million licensed commercial drivers in the U.S may have OSA.

The truck driving lifestyle is a significant contributor to this problem because the primary risk factor for OSA is excessive weight gain, and many truck drivers are severely overweight.

Drivers work strange hours, sleep in their trucks, and are likely to eat frequently at truck stops, where foods are generally high in fat and salt. Sometimes, a crash leaves no clues to what caused it. It may have been OSA, but it’s possible that no one will ever know.

The trucking industry is thoroughly aware of the poor health of drivers and the prevalence of OSA, but the industry is not enthusiastic about taking the actions necessary to reduce the problem and to make the roads safer for everyone. The industry’s primary concern is that thorough testing for OSA might take some drivers off the road.

OSA is a very dangerous condition, but it is treatable. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is an effective remedy for OSA, but its use among truck drivers is very limited, and as the roads across America become more crowded, drivers with OSA are making them more dangerous.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) could require much more vigorous testing and treatment, butscreening for OSA is not mandatory, and drivers who do learn that they have OSA frequently do not maintain their treatment programs.

Every driver and every truck industry official knows the dangers of OSA. By allowing impaired drivers to get behind the wheel of huge trucks, they’re knowingly placing everyone on the road in danger of personal injury or wrongful death.

If you’ve been involved in a collision with with a truck, contact me to make sure all the critical evidence is secured before it “disappers.”  That will definitely help you and may save others.

Onward,

Richard Alexander

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