A recently released study shows that the risk of a crash risk soars among truck drivers who fail to adhere to sleep apnea treatment.
Results show that the rate of serious, preventable crashes was 5 times higher among truck drivers with sleep apnea who failed to adhere to PAP therapy, compared with matched controls. In contrast, the crash rate of drivers with sleep apnea who were fully or partially adherent with treatment was statistically similar to controls.
“The most surprising result of our study is the strength and robustness of the increase in the crash risk for drivers with sleep apnea who fail to adhere to mandated treatment with positive airway pressure therapy,” said lead author Stephen V. Burks, PhD, professor of economics and management and principal investigator of the Truckers & Turnover Project at the University of Minnesota, Morris. “The results of our study support the establishment of obstructive sleep apnea screening standards for all drivers through the commercial driver’s medical exam.”
If we had a National Vision Zero Goal and Vision Zero Rulemaking Policies, what would we do with this information?
According to the authors, panels of medical experts previously convened by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have recommended comprehensive sleep apnea screening for commercial drivers. However, rather than instituting mandatory screening, current federal regulations rely on drivers to self-report sleep apnea symptoms during a biennial medical examination to determine their fitness for duty. On March 8, 2016, the FMCSA and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a joint Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which is the first step as both agencies consider whether to propose specific requirements for screening, evaluating and treating rail workers and commercial motor vehicle drivers for obstructive sleep apnea.
If we were actually serious about saving lives, then we would do everything humanly possible to prevent crash deaths. Here’s a chance to do it right.
According to study co-author Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD, FRCP, chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “Given that the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia and premature death are similarly increased in people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea, regulatory agencies worldwide owe it to truck drivers and to the motorists who share the road with them to require objective screening, diagnostic testing, and treatment adherence monitoring for all commercial drivers.”