Studies show that as many as 47 percent of commercial truck drivers have sleep apnea. This disorder, characterized by interrupted breathing while sleeping, prevents truckers from getting the rest they need to operate a vehicle safely. Falling asleep behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer or other big rig can lead to catastrophic injuries and tragic deaths.
If you suffered injuries in a Utah truck crash involving a fatigued driver, sleep apnea could be the reason why. The experienced semi-truck accident attorneys at Swenson & Shelley can identify what caused the accident and pursue compensation for your losses. Contact us today for a free consultation with a Utah truck accident lawyer.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder affecting at least one-third of U.S. truck drivers. People with the condition start and stop breathing up to 400 times per night during sleep. Each gap in breathing can last up to 10 seconds, causing the body to awaken without the person fully waking up. This cycle causes sufferers to experience poor sleep, waking up tired even after a full night’s rest.
There are three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive – The throat muscles relax too much to allow normal breathing
- Central – The brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome – The person suffers from both obstructive and central sleep apnea
Truckers with sleep apnea may experience delayed reaction time, inattention, visual disturbances, and lack of awareness of their surroundings while driving.
Truck Accidents Caused by Falling Asleep at the Wheel
Falling asleep behind the wheel can send trucks careening across lanes of traffic and into neighboring vehicles. Even when truckers don’t fall asleep, fatigue can impair their alertness so much that they don’t notice other cars around them before it is too late.
Truck drivers are also prone to microsleep, which are periods of mini-sleep that last only a few seconds. Microsleep is common when a person is sleep-deprived and performing monotonous tasks. Long-haul drivers are often on the same stretch of roads for hours, increasing the risk of experiencing microsleep.
DOT Sleep Apnea Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the part of the U.S. Department of Transportation that regulates the truck industry. Though FMCSA has worked to address truck driver fatigue by requiring drivers to take mandatory rest breaks, its regulations do not specifically address sleep apnea.
FMCSA does specify that drivers must be medically qualified to drive if they have a condition that could compromise road safety. For drivers with moderate to severe sleep apnea, medical examiners must certify their fitness to drive.
How to Prove a Truck Accident Was Caused by Sleep Apnea
If sleep apnea is a suspected factor in the truck accident that caused your injury, a lawyer will gather evidence to prove your claim. Potential evidence could include:
- The truck driver’s medical records showing a diagnosis of sleep apnea
- Records from a medical examiner about the driver’s fitness for duty
- Past employment records
- Data from CPAP machines showing failure to comply with usage requirements
- Witness statements
Contact a Utah Truck Accident Lawyer Today
Swenson & Shelley is a respected personal injury law firm serving truck accident victims throughout Utah. If you sustained injuries in a wreck, our legal team will fight for maximum compensation so you can rebuild your life. Contact us now for a free case review.