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The correlation between sleep apnea and truck driver fatigue

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2020 | Truck Accidents |

Have you ever forgotten the last few miles of your trip home when you were tired after a long day at work? This is one of the classic signs of fatigue, which can make driving dangerous. More than likely, you made it home safely—mostly because you didn’t have that far to go. Many people would refer to this as driving on “auto pilot” and attribute it to traveling the same route day in and day out.

While you may have scared yourself while driving drowsy on occasion, can you imagine spending the whole day on the road feeling that way? More than likely, you would want to pull over at some point and rest, but what if your job wouldn’t allow you to do so? If you work as a long-haul trucker, you only earn your paycheck when the wheels are turning and you make your deliveries on time.

Sleep apnea makes fatigue even worse

While one good night’s sleep may cure this problem, some truckers suffer from an undiagnosed and/or untreated sleep disorder that rarely, if ever, allows them to get the restorative rest they need. Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s throat muscles relax to the point where they cut off breathing. A person suffering from this condition could stop breathing numerous times each night, and the brain wakes him or her up slightly in order to restart breathing each time.

As you can imagine, getting a good night’s sleep under these conditions is nearly impossible. A truck driver with undiagnosed and/or untreated sleep apnea most likely exhibits several of the signs and symptoms listed below:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Cardiac problems
  • High blood pressure

Driving safely in this condition presents a challenge that not all truck drivers overcome. They may attempt to use stimulants such as caffeine to remain awake, but these only last so long. Eventually, the only cure is that elusive good night of sleep. When you add sleep apnea to long hours, boredom and other factors that come with everyday life, it can create a recipe for disaster.

When fatigue caused by sleep apnea causes a collision

If you are unfortunate enough to encounter a truck driver fatigued by this sleep disorder, your life could change forever in just a matter of seconds. A collision between a truck weighing up to 80,000 pounds and your passenger vehicle will more than likely leave you with serious injuries.

A thorough investigation into the circumstances leading up to your accident could provide evidence of the driver’s negligence, including undiagnosed and/or untreated sleep apnea. However, this may not be the only factor that led to your crash. In order to pursue the maximum amount of compensation available to you under Florida law, every potential avenue of liability requires scrutiny. For this reason, you would more than likely benefit from working with an attorney with experience in trucking accidents.