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Obese Truckers With Sleep Apnea Cause Many Accidents

A recent study pinpoints a growing problem on the nation’s highway, one that is resulting in some motorists, passengers, and pedestrians getting injured or killed as a result of others’ neglect. It revealed that truck drivers who suffer from severe obesity have more accidents on the job during even their first 24 months driving than other truckers. One explanation offered by some experts is a link between such obesity and a disorder known as sleep apnea.

This disorder has symptoms of sleepiness and fatigue that manifest themselves during the daytime. When a half-asleep obese truck driver is put behind the wheel of a several ton truck hurtling down the highway, often a collision is not far behind. The force of the impact of a heavy truck makes it all the more likely that in accidents that occur severe injuries and deaths will be the result. Medical experts assume that this condition can impair the cognitive ability of a truck driver, interfering with their ability to respond appropriately to risks while driving.

Federal highway safety regulators have recommended that there be more testing of commercial truck drivers for sleep apnea, especially for obese drivers, defined as those whose body mass index (BMI) is 35 or higher. They estimate that approximately 28 percent of all those currently holding commercial driver’s licenses may suffer from the sleep apnea malady.

The researchers who conducted the study assert that the evidence is crystal clear that truckers with the highest BMI have the greatest risk of being involved in an accident. Truck drivers with a BMI under 35 can still have accidents, of course, and may engage in reckless driving or drive while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or while texting. But the overall statistics show them to be only as likely as others in the general population to have an accident.

Obese truck drivers may also face other difficulties that can interfere with their safe driving, including having limited physical agility and experiencing fatigue on the basis of their obesity itself, given the extra energy it takes to move the greater mass of their body.

A good number of truckers suffering from these problems may not be aware of the seriousness of the danger, the statistical evidence that they are at greater risk for accidents, or that they are endangering both themselves and otherwise by failing to seek help or at least get tested to see if they have sleep apnea.

Some say that these obese truck drivers may be in denial about their problems, partially because of a stigma attached to being severely overweight. They recommend that severely obese truck drivers and their doctors have frank discussions about this issue, and that doctors should bring the subject up if the patient fails to do so.

Now that the study has been published and the data revealed, commercial trucking firms, it can be argued, are on notice that failure to test drivers for sleep apnea or to take steps to encourage severely obese truck drivers to reduce weight may put them at greater risk for liability for injuries and deaths caused by ensuing truck accidents.