If you are like many others here in Illinois, driving next to a tractor-trailer makes you nervous. Looking over and seeing nothing but big tires next to you may cause you to speed up just to get away from the truck. In some cases, your instinct could end up saving your life since truck accidents are often some of the most catastrophic and devastating, especially to those in smaller vehicles.
Even so, few would dispute that truck drivers have a challenging job. Driving for long hours alone can cause fatigue and boredom, which can lead to mistakes. However, when a driver also has an untreated medical condition, he or she could present a significant risk to you and your loved ones.
Some drivers have untreated sleep apnea
Research shows that a substantial number of truck drivers suffer from a medical condition called sleep apnea that causes them to stop breathing numerous times during their sleep, which means they do not get the restorative sleep needed in order to drive safely. An undiagnosed driver or one who does not adhere to his or her treatment represents an increased hazard on the roads. A crash is five times more likely to occur under these circumstances when compared to a driver without sleep apnea or one adhering to treatment.
Sleep apnea can cause “micro-sleep”
One of the biggest dangers from a truck driver with untreated sleep apnea is a phenomenon called “micro-sleep.” This occurs when at least parts of the body shut down even for up to 30 seconds. During this time, the traffic situation around a truck driver could change dramatically, and he or she may not be able to respond in time to avoid a tragedy.
Micro-sleep interferes with decision-making, judgment and reaction time. Under these conditions, a driver could cross over into oncoming traffic, run a stop sign or traffic signal, or otherwise create a dangerous situation. If you end up around a truck with a driver in this condition, you could suffer serious injuries.
What comes next?
In the aftermath of a truck accident, determining the factors that led to the crash provides important information in your pursuit of compensation for your financial and other losses. Conducting an in-depth investigation into the life and health of the truck driver is part of that pursuit. If the evidence points to untreated sleep apnea, it could go a long way to explaining the cause of the crash.