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The link between sleep apnea and commercial vehicle accidents

We think most people would agree that no one should suffer discrimination because of a health condition. However, sometimes an existing health condition may threaten the safety of other citizens. Sleep apnea is one such condition and when people who drive for a living suffer from this illness, more commercial vehicle accidents may occur.

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder characterized by brief interruptions in the breathing process while sleeping. These interruptions last several seconds and may occur hundreds of times during a sleep cycle. Unfortunately, the condition often goes undiagnosed and can lead to fatigue and sleepiness during waking hours.

As you might expect, excessive sleepiness is especially worrisome in commercial vehicle operators who often drive for long periods at a time. Some of the ways apnea can lead to commercial vehicle accidents include falling asleep at the wheel, sluggishness, lack of visual focus and reduced reaction time.

Commercial vehicle drivers include truckers, delivery personnel, utility workers and many others. All 50 states are affected by commercial driving, including Iowa. This means that we all could be sharing the road at any time with a commercial driver suffering from the condition. In fact, one study indicates that nearly one-third of the nation's commercial drivers suffer from sleep apnea.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is aware of the commercial vehicle accident risks sleep apnea poses. As such, the administration prohibits those with "moderate to severe" sleep apnea from operating a commercial vehicle. To enforce this rule and others, the FMCSA requires all operators to undergo medical screening before acquiring a license to drive commercial vehicles.

Drivers as well as the motor carriers that employ them have a duty to ensure operators are medically fit to handle commercial vehicles. This means that it is possible to find a legal remedy for those injured or killed in commercial vehicle accidents caused by sleep apnea. Please visit us online if you need more information.

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