Sleepy Truck Drivers Pose Significant Safety Risk

Sleepy Truck Drivers Pose Significant Safety Risk

Highways with a high volume of large truck traffic are a lot less safe when the truck drivers have not slept well.

"In the United states, approximately 5,600 people are killed annually in crashes involving commercial trucks," said Allen Pack, researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. "Falling asleep while driving is an important factor in serious crashes involving commercial vehicles, prompting the question, why?"

To answer this question, Pack and a team of researchers decided to test hundreds of truck drivers for sleep apnea and sleep impairment. They also examined the consequences of short sleep duration (less than five hours) in the home over the course of one week.

Mild to Moderate sleep apnea is defined by the researchers as, "from 5 to less than 30 temporary breathing pauses per hour of sleep," while more than 30 pauses per hour characterize severe cases.

They discovered that 118 of the 406 drivers tested for sleep apnea had mild to moderate cases, and 28 suffered from severe forms of the disease. Just under half of the drivers with less than five hours of sleep showed a measurable decrease in performance.

The researchers concluded that truck drivers with severe sleep apnea and drivers who are getting less than five hours of sleep each night are more likely to experience sleepiness, diminished performance, and inattentiveness while behind the wheel.

Experts recommend regular sleep screening for truck drivers to help reduce the risk of serious truck

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