Sleep apnea affects a great part of the population of the United States. While not a very dangerous condition itself, it can lead to disasters when people fall asleep while driving various vehicles. In this respect, the government seriously considers testing all public drivers for sleep apnea.
The condition disrupts normal sleep during the night and instead induces drowsiness in day time. Pilots have all been tested for sleep apnea for quite some time, but the same measures should be applied to bus drivers, rail workers and truckers.
It is estimated that over 25 million American citizens suffer from sleep apnea that is undiagnosed. As a result, many of them tend to fall asleep while driving, which ultimately leads to disasters and loss of lives. For instance, in 2013, a Metro-North train in Bronx derailed, and thus four people were killed, and sixty were injured. The investigation proved that it all happened because the engineer had fallen asleep.
According to Sarah E. Feinberg, Federal Railroad Administration administrator,
“The sooner patients with [sleep apnea] are diagnosed and treated, the sooner our rail network will be safer.”
American Academy of Sleep Medicine president Nate Watson agrees that such crashes are a large issue since each year records more than 300,000. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released in 2013 a report showing that these crashes caused the death of over 1,200 people. Watson has also added that about ninety percent of people suffering from sleep apnea are not aware of the fact.
The American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety released last week the results of a study that discovered that one-third of the total drivers encounters difficulties in concentrating and staying awake behind the wheel. Scott Darling, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration acting administrator, believes that the first step should be collecting and analyzing sound data of sleep apnea in order to determine its impact.
All this could lead to a new requirement for commercial drivers and railroad workers: being tested and treated for the condition. The idea is supported by all major travelling companies.
Sleep apnea determines the cessation or reduction of breathing during sleep. For those who suffer from the condition, four hours of uninterrupted sleep can be more refreshing than eight hours of troubled sleep.
If implemented, the measure will surely reduce the number of both car and train crashes and thus reduce the number of lost lives.
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