Sleep Apnea And Road Traffic Accidents (RTA)
The risk is of falling asleep while driving a motor vehicle is very high in sleep apnea patients. And there is increasing regulatory interest in the identification of drivers with this condition. Patients with sleep apnea exhibit poorer performance than control subjects on several types of driving simulators. In addition, the automobile crash rate for these patients has been estimated as two to three times greater than for all drivers.
Sleep apnea represents a greater risk factor than reduced eye sight or hearing defects, diabetes, epilepsy, alcoholism, the consumption of drugs or mental illness. Alcohol consumption and sleep apnea explain most of the accidents involving the human factor. The poor quality of sleep (sleep debt) is the reason for the changes in behavior, irritability, cognitive impairment, decreased motor function and reduced sensory abilities.
If a patient chooses to operate a motor vehicle with knowledge that he or she frequently falls asleep while driving or that he or she suffers from a condition that makes it dangerous to drive, the individual’s actions may be considered negligent and may lead to civil or criminal liability in the event that someone is injured or killed.
According to statistics, driving accidents caused by sleeping on the wheel accounts for 25% of the total traffic accidents, and patients with sleep apnea cause crashes more likely to 7 times than general population.
Sleep disorders and Obesity.
Sleep disorders like sleep apnea or narcolepsy in truck drivers are a major risk factor in RTA. Obese drivers with a body mass more than 30 kg presented a two-fold higher accident rate than non-obese drivers.
What can you do?
If you are a driving with symptoms of snoring, you must go and see your doctor and get tested for sleep apnea like a Home sleep study and other tests.
The doctor should be alert for excessive daytime sleepiness or other symptoms of sleep apnea in any patient who drives, but especially in patients who drive a bus or who are otherwise occupationally responsible for driving. The doctor is expected to assess the patient’s risk for motor vehicle accidents and likewise inform the patient of the risks involved if he is not treated.
Once a patient has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, the doctor must warn the patient of the potential risk of operating a motor vehicle while sleepy or inattentive. All high-risk patients must be warned of the risk of driving until adequate therapy is instituted. The patient should ideally be given written information about the risks involved in driving with sleep apnea.
See your doctor if you have snoring or breathing problems, daytime fatigue, morning headaches, night time choking episodes. You could have sleep apnea which can be treated with new devices like a CPAP or Surgery.
If you are obese, take the steps to bring down your weight. Obesity is a common factor in sleep apnea.
Get into a routine of exercise during the day. Do not exercise after in the night as the activity could be over stimulating and prevent you from sleeping.
Have a good sleep the night before going for long drive.
Take good rest, and don’t drive if you feel sleepy for the sake of others.
Sleep apnea is a deadly disease; it can kill yourself and others