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Sleep apnea often to blame for drowsy driving and truck accidents

As we’ve previously written on this blog, drowsy/fatigued is a much more serious problem than most people realize. Drivers who are seriously sleep-deprived can be as impaired as drivers who are legally drunk.

Thankfully, most of us are able to stay alert on the road because we primarily drive during the day and get a restful sleep each night. But the same cannot always be said for truck drivers, who already pose a danger to others on the road because of the size and weight of their vehicles.

Drowsy or fatigued driving is more common among truck drivers for a variety of reasons, some of which are obvious (more time behind the wheel, driving at odd hours, etc). But truck drivers are also much more likely than the general public to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, which often causes horrible quality sleep and leads to constant drowsiness during waking hours.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can be thought of as an extreme version of snoring. During sleep, the tissues and muscles in the mouth and throat relax, closing airways and making it hard to take in a breath. Those with sleep apnea can stop breathing for up to 10 seconds at a time, and this cycle repeats throughout the night. Even if they slept for eight hours or more, those with OSA can wake up feeling more fatigued than when they went to bed.

Among the general public, about 4 percent of people have OSA. Among truck drivers, the number could be as high as 35 percent. Like many other medical conditions, obstructive sleep apnea is often (but not always) tied to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. The very duties of a truck driver seem to encourage this medical outcome.

Truck drivers are not necessarily responsible for having sleep apnea, but they are responsible for treating it and ensuring that it doesn’t lead to dangerously drowsy driving. Trucking companies are also liable for any accidents caused by drivers with untreated apnea.

If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an accident caused by a commercial truck driver, drowsy driving may have been to blame. And if so, untreated obstructive sleep apnea may have been the root cause. In order to hold the at-fault driver accountable and claim the compensation you need and deserve, please discuss the details of your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.