In an effort to cut down on the sometimes tragic effects of drowsy driving, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have released a call for input on a proposed rule on obstructive sleep apnea.
According to the March 8, 2016, notice, the agencies hope to learn about how sleep apnea affects commercial drivers.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a respiratory disorder that interrupts sleep when the upper airway collapses intermittently and restricts airflow. Sufferers awaken repeatedly for air, often without realizing it. Their sleep, as a result, is less refreshing, which can lead to attention deficits and other cognitive impairments.
Dangers of obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is more likely to affect people with the following risk factors:
- A large neck
- High blood pressure
- Narrowed airway
- Chronic nasal congestion
The federal notice of proposed rulemaking requests public comment about the prevalence of moderate-to-severe OSA among people who fill safety-sensitive highway and railway transportation positions. It also looks to obtain information on the potential costs and benefits of identifying people in those positions and addressing likely OSA, such as by evaluating and treating workers who show multiple risk factors.
Sleep apnea a role in crashes
The FMCSA and FRA notice highlights examples of crashes in which sleep apnea played a role. For example, in a 2000 work zone crash, the driver of a tractor-trailer in Tennessee struck a highway patrol cruiser that was following construction vehicles. The state trooper was killed. The semi then crossed the median and struck an oncoming Chevrolet Blazer, seriously injuring its driver. It was later discovered that the truck driver had been diagnosed with OSA but had not reported it; the National Transportation Safety Board determined that his sleep apnea was the probable cause of the truck accident.
Because of their size, commercial trucks and trains have the potential to cause more serious accidents than passenger vehicles. Federal reports have found that more than 10% of traffic fatalities involve heavy-weight commercial trucks, with driver-related factors such as fatigue playing a major role.
Liability for drowsy driver accidents
When an innocent person is injured or killed in a drowsy driving truck crash, he or his family may be able to receive compensation for the medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses caused by the crash. To hold the at-fault party responsible, he must prove that the driver acted carelessly or broke a law designed for safety; that the carelessness or violation caused the crash; and that the crash caused the injury or loss.
Who is responsible is a more complicated question that should be handled by an experienced personal injury lawyer. The truck driver may seem like the most obvious liable party but often another person or company will own the truck or trailer. Other companies may have hired the truck for a trip, loaded the cargo, or provided the maintenance.
Victims of motor vehicle accidents are encouraged to seek legal counsel as soon as possible to protect their rights. Eisbrouch Marsh are highly-skilled advocates serving New Jersey and New York. For a free case evaluation, please call 201-342-5545.
- Federal Railroad Administration, Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Obstructive Sleep Apnea, https://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/Details/L17364
- Mayo Clinic, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obstructive-sleep-apnea/basics/definition/con-20027941