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Sleep apnea and increased chance of crashes explained

We know that a good night's sleep means we wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day. We don't think much of the repercussions of missing a couple of hours of sleep, thinking we can make it up the next day-it's not a matter of life and death for most of us. Unless you are a truck driver, where drowsy driving means you are operating a large vehicle without fully functioning cognitive abilities. This is perhaps why some researchers estimate that up to 20 percent of large-truck accidents are caused by drowsy or fatigued driving.

One of the reasons truck drivers do not get enough sleep is because they are suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that interrupts breathing during sleep-lasting up to 10 seconds each time, the disturbances can happen more than 400 times during a single night. It's a serious disease, which causes sleep disturbances, memory and concentration problems, and excessive daytime sleepiness. This means it affects truck driver's daytime alertness, making it difficult to stay awake, focus and react quickly. People with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to be involved in a crash.

Truck driver's lifestyles make them more susceptible to the disease. Being overweight and leading a sedentary life are among the most common factors of the disease-often the trademarks of a trucker's life as they are often on the road hours at end, leaving no time for a healthy lifestyle. This is perhaps why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that almost one-third (28 percent) of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe apnea.

If untreated, sleep apnea can cause truck drivers to be involved in serious truck accidents, causing severe injuries. It is the motor carrier's responsibility to ensure that drivers with conditions that affect their ability to safely operate a vehicle be prohibited from operating them. When they shirk this responsibility, it may be possible to hold not only the truck driver responsible for the motor vehicle accident they caused, but also the trucking company.

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