Proposed Rule Designed to Prevent Trucking Accidents Due to Sleep Apnea Canceled
Many safety advocates suggest that sleep apnea plays a significant role in trucking accidents caused by drowsy or fatigued driving. If we want to prevent truck crashes and serious personal injuries, we need to take sleep apnea seriously. However, according to a recent article in TruckNews.com, a proposed rule designed to prevent trucking accidents caused by sleep apnea has been withdrawn. The proposed rule would have “clear[ed] up the confusion on how truck drivers should be diagnosed and treated for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA),” according to the article. It also would have required truck drivers and train operators to be screened for sleep apnea in order to catch the condition before an accident occurred that would facilitate the need for a truck injury lawyer.
In August 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) indicated that the proposed rule would be canceled. Safety advocates, as well as those in the trucking industry, have voiced concern about the cancellation of the rule given the positive effects it could have on highway safety.
Why is sleep apnea such a major concern for truckers? The U.S. Department of Health explains that OSA is a “disorder that causes one to stop breathing during sleep,” and these pauses in breathing can last anywhere “from a few seconds to a few minutes.” When a person suffers from sleep apnea, they do not rest as well as others at night. As a result, those with sleep apnea disorders tend to be more tired or fatigued during the day—when they are at work, including truck driving. Based on data from a study conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute of the American Trucking Association, nearly 28% of commercial truck drivers currently suffer from “some form of sleep apnea.”
Sleep apnea is relatively easy to treat. Typically, those with the disorder use what is known as a “continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine at night, which provides the user with continuous air pressure while sleeping.” By instituting a clear rule on sleep apnea screening, diagnosis, and treatment, the federal government could help to limit the number of truck accidents that occur on America’s highways.
Getting the Facts About Truck Accidents
How big of a problem are trucking accidents? As a fact sheet from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) explains, most serious and fatal injuries that occur in truck collisions affect passenger vehicle occupants. In other words, due to the large size and weight of semi-trucks, collisions with smaller vehicles often do not result in injury to the truck driver but rather to the driver and passengers of the smaller vehicle. The following are some facts about truck collisions in the U.S.:
- Large truck crashes resulted in 3,852 deaths in 2015;
- 16% of all reported truck fatalities were truck occupants;
- 69% of trucking accident deaths were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles;
- In 15% of all fatal truck accidents, the victims were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists;
- Between 2009 and 2015, large truck fatalities have risen by 22%;
- When truck crashes involve both a semi-truck and a passenger vehicle, 97% of the fatalities are passenger vehicle occupants;
- Truck accident fatalities account for about 11% of all deadly motor vehicle crashes; and
- About 75% of all fatal trucking accidents involve tractor-trailers (as opposed to single-unit trucks).
If you were injured in a truck accident, contact a truck accident lawyer to determine your rights.