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Sleep apnea testing of truck drivers likely to increase

Many Kentucky residents earn their livings as truck drivers. Truckers with a body mass index above 35, which indicates obesity and a higher risk for breathing problems, might have to undergo testing for sleep apnea. In April, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear a case from a trucker who declared that his employer violated his privacy by requiring him to take the costly test.

With the lower court ruling against the trucker remaining in effect, trucking companies could increase driver testing. These employers have an interest in testing their overweight drivers for the condition that reduces sleep quality and promotes fatigue. According to a study from Harvard University, truckers with untreated sleep apnea have a rate of preventable accidents five times higher than their healthier colleagues. Researchers calculate that truck driver fatigue or drowsiness causes up to 20 percent of big rig crashes.

A representative of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association disputed the statistics about driver fatigue and sleep apnea. An attorney who represents truck accident victims, however, believes that trucking companies that test drivers for the sleep problem are taking a responsible step toward reducing catastrophic accidents.

Demanding schedules and deadlines contribute to the number of sleep-deprived truck drivers on the road. A drowsy truck driver could make mistakes that lead to crashes and severe injuries. An occupant of a smaller vehicle that is involved in such a crash could suffer catastrophic injuries that require months of expensive medical treatment. People who have been injured in an accident caused by a drowsy truck driver may want to have legal assistance in seeking compensation for their losses.

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