Sleepy truckers and big rigs weighing 80,000 pounds are a deadly combination.
“Sleep apnea is a major contributor to daytime drowsiness,” the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration states. “A condition that could prove deadly for commercial truck drivers and everyone sharing the road with them.”
The Sleep Disorders Center of Alabama reports more than 100,000 accidents a year are caused by a fatigued driver. More than half of such accidents involve a driver under the age of 25. Aside from young drivers, those at highest risk include shift workers, commercial drivers and business travelers.
Being awake for 18 hours has the same impact on a driver’s skills as being legally drunk with a blood-alcohol level of .08
Risk factors for drowsy driving include:
-Fatigue — six hours of sleep or less triples your risk of an accident.
-Sleep loss – insomnia or sleep apnea, etc.
-Driving long distances without adequate rest breaks.
-Driving through the night.
-Taking certain medications.
-Working more than a 60 hour week.
Many commercial drivers deal with every one of these risk factors. So it’s little wonder safety advocates are especially concerned about truckers who also suffer from a sleep disorder, such as insomnia or sleep apnea.
A startling new study released earlier this year revealed that 41 percent of truck drivers in Australia suffered from obstructive sleep apnea — a serious sleeping disorder in which a person may stop breathing periodically throughout the night. Daytime sleepiness is a common result. Only 4.4 percent of the truckers had been previously diagnosed with the condition. The study also found half of all truckers are obese and half smoke — two of the most common risk factors for sleep apnea. NPR later reported it’s estimated that about one-third of truckers in this country suffer from sleep apnea.
The Sleep Disorders Center of Alabama offers the following safety tips:
-Get plenty of rest and plan rest breaks.
-Take a travel companion.
-Avoid alcohol and sedating medication.
-Watch for warning signs of fatigue.
-Pull over and take a nap.
-Caffeine may help for a short while but is no substitute for adequate sleep.
Sleep apnea resources for commercial drivers are available here.
Our Tuscaloosa injury attorneys believe it’s important as we head into the fall that we all take seriously the risks of driving while fatigued. The end of Daylight Savings Time on Nov. 4 typically results in an increase in the number of drowsy driving accidents as motorists are once again adjust to making their evening commute in the dark.
Driving at night poses its own challenges. But drowsy drivers are increasing their risks exponentially behind the wheel. Never is that truer than when behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer or other large commercial vehicle. Whether driving long distance through the night, operating on little sleep, or driving a lonely stretch of road, commercial truck drivers face plenty of risk factors for drowsy driving even when they are getting a good night’s sleep.
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