Texas is a major shipping hub for getting goods to the rest of the country. That means an endless stream of fully loaded 18-wheelers on our roads, at all hours of day and night. Unfortunately, that means we face a higher risk of truck accidents that drivers in certain other states.
One of the most common causes of truck accidents is truck driver fatigue and drowsiness. This is, in part, due to the odd and inconsistent hours that the job requires. But in many cases, it is also related to a medical condition that often goes undiagnosed until it results in a fatal crash. The condition is obstructive sleep apnea, and truck drivers are much more likely than the general population to suffer from it.
What is Sleep Apnea?
The easiest way to conceive of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring that is so bad it inhibits breathing. The soft tissues in the throat relax and collapse during sleep, making it hard to naturally draw in breath. The result is disruptions in breathing that can last for 10 seconds (or longer) at a time and can occur hundreds of times per night.
Those who suffer from sleep apnea often don’t wake up due to the episodes, but their sleep quality is terrible. They are significantly fatigued and drowsy during the day.
Truckers at Higher Risk
Among the general population, it is estimated that between 3 and 7 percent of men have obstructive sleep apnea (the rate is lower for women). Among truck drivers, the rate of OSA is estimated at between 17 percent and 28 percent.
One of the major risk factors for developing OSA is a sedentary lifestyle that leads to weight gain, which is very common among truck drivers. The job itself requires hours of sitting still behind the wheel.
Many truck drivers may not realize they have apnea. Others may realize it but refuse to invest in the equipment needed to manage it and get better sleep.
Who is Liable for a Drowsy Driving Crash?
If you were seriously injured in a truck accident and suspect that fatigued driving was to blame, an experienced attorney can help you investigate and hold all at-fault parties liable. By examining driver medical records, employment records and other documents, we may be able to determine if the driver had apnea, whether he knew of his diagnosis, whether his employer knew and whether anyone did anything to treat it.
As an accident victim, your rights are important and deserve to be honored. Please contact a personal injury attorney to learn more about how you can seek compensation.