Highway safety can be improved by requiring that drivers be tested for sleeping disorders.
However, managing treatment and testing can put an extra burden on both motor carriers and drivers. Commercial drivers currently do not have to be screened for sleep apnea. This is a condition that disrupts sleep. It can lead to daytime sleepiness.
Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson is the president of the American Academy Of Sleep Medicine, which is an organization that is based in Seattle. He has stated that he is concerned about drivers who have sleep apnea. People who have sleep apnea are more likely to fall asleep while they are behind the wheel.
The Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Carrier Safety Administration announced on March 8th, 2016 that they would be teaming up to propose a rulemaking that would require rail workers and truck drivers to be tested and treated for sleep apnea. Richard Blesser works for the Marsh Risk Consulting. He has stated that most vehicle collisions are caused by fatigue and distracted driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 72,000 accidents are caused by driver fatigue every year. There was a study done by the University of Minnesota that involved 1,613. The study took place from 2006 to 2009. The study found that people who have sleep apnea are five times more likely to be involved in an accident.
Stephen Burks was the lead author of the study. He stated that the results of the study should convince people that sleep apnea testing is necessary for professional drivers. Jamie Wilson is the senior risk engineering consultant and transportation specialist at Zurich North America. He has stated that culture, convenience and cost are the main things that stop driving companies from requiring that drivers be tested for sleep apnea.
Mr. Wilson also stated that a sleep apnea diagnosis requires that one make several trips to a sleep clinic. The costs of these tests can also be high. That is why he recommends that drivers work with a physician or use a take-home test. Additionally, Mr. Wilson stated that many companies are reluctant to add more regulations.
Dr. Watson stated that he understands people’s concerns, but he wants them to understand that sleep apnea can impair their livelihood. People have to stay awake behind the wheel so that they can keep themselves and others awake.