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The link between truck driver fatigue and sleep apnea

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It is not uncommon for drivers to get tired when behind the wheel. It happens to just about everyone, especially when driving long distances. Pulling over, taking a break or getting some rest is recommended in order to keep oneself and others with whom one shares the road safe. Of course, there are also medical conditions that can cause drivers to experience extreme fatigue if not properly treated. In New York and elsewhere, commercial truck driver fatigue, in particular, is a major public safety concern, and the medical condition known as sleep apnea has been linked to this serious issue.

When a person suffers from sleep apnea, he or she struggles or completely stops breathing while asleep. This is usually caused by an obstruction in the throat. When an individual struggles to breath or stops breathing, the body will wake itself in order to begin breathing again. This interrupts the sleep cycle, keeping that individual from getting or spending enough time in the deeper stages of sleep which are needed to heal and refresh the body.

Unfortunately, 28 percent of commercial truck drivers are affected by some form of sleep apnea. Those who refuse treatment can lose their licenses. Those who simply do not use treatment while out on the road may cause accidents.

Sleep apnea is easily treatable, though not all individuals who suffer from this condition adjust well to therapy. While there are many things that can lead to truck driver fatigue, if an accident occurs that can be attributed to an untreated medical condition such as sleep apnea, the driver and his or her employer may be held accountable. Victims of such incidents in New York or -- in the event of fatality -- their surviving family members may pursue compensation for their losses by filing legal claims in civil court.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Sleep apnea a tough problem for government, transportation industry", Mary Wisniewski, May 29, 2016

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