Apnea literally translates as “without breath.” As the name suggests, people who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea momentarily stop breathing in their sleep. This causes their oxygen levels to drop, which in turn robs the brain and heart of the oxygen needed. Those who suffer from sleep apnea generally experience severe fatigue during the day, which can impair their ability to drive. In fact, some people who suffer from this ailment fall asleep for very short periods during the day, even while driving. Even when not asleep, someone with sleep apnea may suffer from impaired alertness, which can cause them to respond slowly to a traffic situation which may lead to an accident.
Anyone who drives with this condition is putting themselves, their passengers, and other drivers at risk for personal injury and even fatal injury. Trucking companies who do not screen their employees for sleep apnea are as reckless as drivers who get behind the wheel knowing that they suffer from this condition. Knowingly operating heavy machinery and vehicles with this condition can lead to injury and death.
Almost twenty million people suffer from sleep apnea. The condition is most likely to affect overweight middle-age men, although anyone can be affected. Currently, airline pilots are screened for the condition. Most truck drivers and all licensed private drivers are not. In addition, many with sleep apnea go undiagnosed for years. Worse, some trucking companies actively lobby for unsafe conditions, allowing drivers to receive only 8 hours of rest in every 24 hours so that fewer drivers can meet more schedules. Evern for drivers not suffering from sleep apnea, 8 hours of rest is not enough for safe driving.
Anyone who has not received enough rest – whether due to sleep apnea or other causes – is a hazard on the roads. Inadequate sleep can lead to severe fatigue, depression, sexual dysfunction, grogginess, loss of concentration, memory loss, and headaches. Over long periods of time, lack of good sleep can cause extreme fatigue, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and other ailments. In fact, some experts suggest that the loss of concentration and grogginess associated with lack of good sleep has similar effects on the body as excessive alcohol.
Sleep disorders have many symptoms. Excessive fatigue, snoring, or gasping for air while sleeping can all be symptoms of a sleep disorder and should be investigated promptly. Testing for a sleep disorder usually is quite simple – the patient will sleep overnight at a special facility while their muscle activity, breathing, blood pressure, heart, oxygen level, and periods of REM sleep are measured. If sleep apnea is diagnosed, the relatively simple treatment involves a small pump which ensures that air is passed through the airway while the patient sleeps. This simple treatment can help prevent many car accidents and fatalities. In sever cases, a thirty minute nasal surgery under local anesthetic can help correct the sleeping problem permanently.
Unfortunately, many drivers who know they are exhausted continue to get behind the wheel, and this causes much tragedy on Florida roads each year. If you or a loved one have been injured by a truck driver or car driver who fell asleep at the wheel, Florida law protects you. You can seek damages to replace your lost income and to get the medical treatment you deserve. At the same time, you can work to ensure that the unsafe driver does not harm others in the same way. If you have been injured in a car accident, contact a qualified Florida lawyer at once by calling 1- 800-535-2962 (1 800 5 FLAXMAN). Your initial consultation with our experienced Florida attorneys is at no cost and does not obligate you in any way.