Many drivers have nodded off for a split second behind the wheel. This experience is as terrifying as having no memory of driving the last 5 or 10 miles. Drowsy drivers take real risks with their own lives and those of others. Place the drowsy driver in control of a massive tractor trailer truck, and the risks increase dramatically.
Each Tuscaloosa truck wreck lawyer at our firm is pleased that hours of service laws help ensure that truckers take the time for the rest they need. Unfortunately, the right number of hours of sleep does not necessarily create enough rest when medical conditions affect the quality of sleep.
Simply stated, sleep apnea is a breathing-related disorder that interrupts breathing during sleep. In its extreme forms, this condition can be life-threatening. Since just about any level of severity can interrupt restful sleep, however, it leaves many individuals drowsy even after they believe they had a good night’s sleep.
An article published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration cites one study that states that 28 percent of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea. The article goes on to list a wide array of factors that places individuals at higher risk for this disorder, including (but not limited to) the following:
Aside from loud snoring, sufferers may not recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea. Alabama law requires truckers to see certified medical examiners when seeking their medical certificates. Still, even these professionals may not always be aware of the need to conduct the somewhat involved sleep studies that may be required to accurately diagnose this disorder. While there are a number of remedies that can alleviate the sleep issues that lead to drowsy driving, diagnosis is the first essential step.
Of course, regardless of whether it involves smaller motor vehicles or massive trucks, drowsy driving is a serious concern, and sleep apnea can affect anyone’s ability to drive alertly. However, the risks of severe injuries and fatalities grow significantly when accidents involve vehicles that can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds.
It is always recommended to avoid driving near commercial trucks any more than is necessary. Of course, it also makes sense to vigilantly observe the behavior of all drivers. A vehicle that swerves out of its lane or drives at inconsistent speeds might well be under control by a drowsy or substance-impaired driver. Even if it means taking more time to arrive at a destination, dropping back to get into a better position to observe and avoid a vehicle can help improve safety.
Unfortunately, not every accident can be prevented. When commercial trucks are involved, victims face the potential for serious injuries and legal cases that can be complicated by the involvement of powerful truck company attorneys. First, seek medical attention. Then contact an attorney with extensive experience with truck accidents.
What is Sleep Apnea? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Fatal Truck Crash Reportedly Caused by Fatigued Driver, Birmingham Truck Accident blog