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Should truckers and bus drivers be tested for sleep apnea?

There is perhaps nothing more frustrating than those seemingly random evenings when you are unable to sleep despite your best efforts, tossing and turning, and watching the hours tick by until your alarm clock tells you it’s time to get up so that you can start a tiring workday.

As frustrating as this is, imagine if almost every single workday was tiring and that you had no idea as to why you were so fatigued. If this scenario sounds implausible, then chances are good that you’ve never heard of obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea — or OSA — is a disorder in which a person’s breathing is reduced or even stopped very briefly and very frequently while they are sleeping. Indeed, a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine determined that for someone with OSA, eight hours of sleep is actually less invigorating than four hours of normal uninterrupted sleep.

Making matters worse, however, is the fact that statistics show that upwards of 25 million Americans are likely suffering from undiagnosed OSA.

Outside of making everyday living more difficult, this can actually present very real public safety concerns. If you don’t believe it, consider the following:

  • The National Transportation Safety Board has suggested that OSA can increase the risk of a motor vehicle accident by seven times
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in 2013 alone, over 1,200 people lost their lives in accidents caused by someone falling asleep while driving
  • The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that upwards of 300,000 car crashes per year can be attributed to drowsy driving

Interestingly enough, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced earlier this week that it was launching a formal rulemaking process to determine whether railroad workers, commercial bus drivers and truckers should be tested for OSA much in the same way that pilots already are.

This proposed rule makes sense given the potential trains, buses and trucks have for causing potentially fatal accidents, and the fact that there are viable sleep app treatments available (weight loss, sleep apnea machines, etc.).

What are your thoughts on this matter?

If you’ve been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a fatal motor vehicle accident, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.


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