Truck drivers with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who failed to adhere to treatment had a rate of preventable crashes five times higher than that of truckers without the ailment, according to researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Morris, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and colleagues.
The study—which looked at the results of the first large-scale employer program to screen, diagnose, and monitor OSA treatment adherence in the U.S. trucking industry—will be published online March 21, 2016 in the journal Sleep.
The findings suggest that commercial truck drivers should be regularly screened for sleep apnea and required to treat it if they have it in order to continue driving, according to Stefanos Kales, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School, Chief of Occupational Medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance, and senior author of the study. “Mandating screening, diagnosis, and treatment would reduce large truck and bus accidents, and therefore deaths and injuries among the motoring public,” he said.
“It’s estimated that up to 20% of all large truck crashes are due to drowsy or fatigued driving, which would account for almost 9,000 fatalities and up to 220,000 serious injuries,” Kales said.