There are many risk factors that increase a driver’s risk of getting into an accident. This includes driving while intoxicated or driving while distracted. However, there is one cause of car accidents that many people overlook because it is a silent threat: sleep apnea.
Nearly 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. This is a sleeping disorder in which a person is unable to breathe periodically throughout the night and wakes up momentarily. Not only is this dangerous for a person’s cardiovascular health, but it also prevents a person from getting a good night’s rest, making them more drowsy during the day and increasing the risk of being in a car accident.
One of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea is daytime fatigue. A person may wake up dozens of times each night. In some cases, the person is unaware he or she is waking up because it is involuntary and sudden. Additional symptoms that show someone needs to see a sleep doctor immediately include:
- Attention problems
- Morning headaches
- Sore throat
- Chronic dry mouth
- Loud snoring
Sleep apnea’s effect on driving
As evidence of the way sleep apnea can impact driving, people need look no further than truck drivers. Many of these people exhibit the most common risk factors for developing sleep apnea. They often have disturbed sleep patterns anyway because they work long hours, sometimes at night. Additional risk factors include being overweight and smoking.
Despite efforts to make it easier to test truck drivers for the presence of sleep apnea, these measures were shot down by Congress recently. Companies should test their drivers to ensure they do not have any sleeping disorders before hitting the road. Individuals should also take note if they feel more fatigued during the day and if they are falling sleep at work or school. Even if a person does not end up having sleep apnea, it is simply good to obtain peace of mind.
If you have been in an accident caused by a drowsy driver, you may have legal options. Speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.