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Should truckers and train engineers be screened for sleep apnea?

There are a wide range of potential causes and contributory factors of motor vehicle accidents. Texting behind the wheel, drunk driving and similar problems often receive the most attention in the media. Drowsy driving has gained some attention in recent years as a serious problem. In our sleep-deprived culture, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that roughly 328,000 traffic accidents are linked to drowsiness each year.

Proposed Sleep Apnea Screening Rule Hits Roadblock

Last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began working on proposed safety rules to require truck drivers, bus drivers and rail operators with specified risk factors to undergo a screening protocol for the disorder. Debate has continued throughout the rulemaking process. However, as a part of the policy to reduce regulatory oversight, the federal government has announced plans to scrap the sleep apnea screening rules, according to The Hill.

Most People With Apnea Are Unaware They Have The Condition

It is well known that sleep disorders, such as apnea, can cause daytime drowsiness. Unfortunately, the condition is drastically under diagnosed. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that somewhere around 22 million people suffer from sleep apnea. However, the actual number is elusive, as the association estimates that 80 percent of Americans who suffer from the disorder are not even aware they have the condition.


In 2015, researchers found that people who had the sleeping disorder were 2.5 times more likely to be in a car accident when it was left untreated, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The risk of being in an accident was slashed by 70 percent among drivers with sleep apnea who used a CPAP machine to treat the condition for at least four hours per night. 

Sleep apnea was blamed for a New Jersey transit train accident that killed one woman after the rail engineer dozed off and crashed into a station platform. The sleeping disorder was also linked to a 2013 Metro North train derailment. After that wreck, Metro-North discovered roughly 18 percent of its train engineers suffered from sleep apnea and most, if not all, of the engineers were likely unaware of the condition.

The Hill reports that there has been a 20 percent increase in fatal truck accidents since 2009. With truck accidents on the rise, safety on the road should be paramount. If you or a loved one has been injured in a serious truck or rail accident, it is important to work with an law firm with the resources and experience to fight to obtain justice for the harm you and your family has suffered.

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