Many auto accidents and serious truck accidents are contributed to by impairment of the at fault motorist. While drugs and alcohol play a role in a number of accidents in the United States, there is a large body of evidence suggesting that impairment due to sleep apnea is a culprit in many such accidents, particularly for over the road truck drivers who drive long hours.
Sleep Apnea is a medical disorder that interrupts a person's breathing during sleep. Normally, a person's respiratory system slows during sleep, but a healthy person does not stop breathing. Sleep Apnea causes sleeplessness, fatigue, and is associated with excessive snoring and being overweight. Trucking companies are aware of the sleep apnea problem and the physical characteristics of drivers who may be susceptible to this condition. If an auto accident is caused where the driver is said to have been asleep, an investigation into whether or not the driver had sleep apnea and whether or not the driver and his employer knew about it is necessary.
Because driver fatigue is a significant risk factor for accidents drivers and trucking companies have an obligation not only to monitor the number of hours worked, but to monitor safety, health and qualifications of their drivers. According to a 2002 study by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, almost thirty percent of commercial driver's license holders have some form of sleep apnea. Other studies have shown that fatigue is a significant factor in accidents.