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Study: Sleep Apnea Treatment Reduces Crash Risk

Drivers who suffer from untreated sleep apnea face a greater risk of being involved in a severe crash, according to a study co-authored by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

As reported by Heavy Duty Trucking, researchers found drivers with obstructive sleep apnea who not adhere to a mandated treatment program had 70 preventable serious truck crashes, compared with  just14 crashes experienced by an equal-sized group that adhered to treatment or did not have the condition at all.

The study compared more than 1,600 drivers with obstructive sleep apnea with an equal number of drivers who did not have the condition. Drivers with the condition were provided auto-adjusting positive airway pressure treatment and objectively monitored, according to researchers.

“Previous research has shown that obstructive sleep apnea is among the most common causes of excessive drowsiness or fatigue in the daytime, so this new analysis really underscores the risk truck drivers diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea assume if they choose not to adhere to a treatment program,” said Erin Mabry, co-author of the research article and a senior research associate with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s Center for Truck and Bus Safety.

The study also found that drivers who did not follow administered treatment were retained at a fleet only one-third as long as drivers who did adhere to treatments. As many as 60% of drivers who chose not to accept mandated treatment quit voluntarily before being discharged.

Virginia Tech researchers collaborated on interpreting the results and writing an article that appeared in the journal Sleep along with representatives from the Harvard Medical School and Precision Pulmonary Diagnostics.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation has taken what is been called a “first step” to address obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in truck drivers by publishing a so-called “pre-rule” or an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that calls for public input during the next 90 days on the impacts of screening, evaluating, and treating commercial drivers and rail workers for OSA.

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