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Countless vehicular accidents all over the world have been attributed to drivers falling asleep while behind a steering wheel. Driving entails eye-hand coordination, calculation of speed and direction, and intense concentration. Alertness and undivided attention of a driver is required when driving a vehicle. If a person has untreated sleeping disorder that makes him prone to falling asleep while driving, then he has a problem!
Studies indicate that fatigue and sleepiness are factors in 20% of vehicular accidents. Long working hours, sleep deprivation, shift work, alcohol consumption, illness, sleeping disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), and even a new baby in the house may cause daytime sleepiness. In this connection, sleepiness and inattentiveness due to OSA or any sleeping disorder are risk factors in driving and in any industrial setting.
Another study indicates that OSA patients have higher reported incidence of car accidents. This is an indication that OSA patients have an increased risk in traffic accidents.
Sleeping Disorder and Impaired Driving
In the past two decades studies linking OSA and vehicular accidents were done. The fact is that OSA disrupts sleep which leads to daytime sleepiness that could negatively affect one’s driving. There are also studies that conclude that people with untreated OSA are three times more likely to figure in vehicular accidents; six times more likely to get involved in highway accidents and ten times more likely to figure in single-car accidents. It is not clear, however, if accidents are due to sleepiness per se or due to general impairment of driving skills. Not all drivers with OSA are at risk of car accidents as some do not show symptoms of the disorder and are therefore not affected by the lack of sleep.
When to Stop Driving
OSA patients who do not experience extreme sleepiness to affect their driving, do not have to stop driving. But if their condition causes them to experience extreme daytime sleepiness, then that is reason enough for them to stop driving until their sleeping disorder is treated. A person who caused an accident because he fell asleep on the wheel commits a felony that can lead to a prison term if the accident is grave or that it involved disabling a person or loss of life. Whatever the reason for a person’s daytime sleepiness, he must have the common sense to stop driving and have himself examined by a qualified doctor.
A person diagnosed with OSA has the responsibility to inform the DVLA of his sleeping disorder so that his driving could be gauged to be impaired or not.
If you suspect that you have a sleeping disorder, contact us now at 1300 744 441
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