“I am on a mission. I am going to wage a war against sleep apnea in the trucking industry,” says Wanda Lindsay in an introductory video for a foundation she started to raise awareness about the dangers of sleep apnea and to honor the memory of her husband John.
Last year, Mr. and Mrs. Lindsay had been enjoying the retired life to the fullest – spending time with their children and grandchildren, planning trips, and traveling. But all of that changed suddenly for the Texas couple in May 2010 when they came to a stop in a construction zone while traveling on Interstate 30 near Texarkana.
In Mrs. Lindsay’s words, “a Celadon tractor trailer slammed into the rear of our car. At the time of impact he was traveling 65 mph with his cruise control engaged. John sustained massive injuries. He did not survive.”
Mr. Lindsay explains in her video that the truck driver who collided with their car “was a poster child for sleep apnea. He had all of the signs and symptoms. The fact that that trucking company chose to put him on the road with all of those indicators is just totally irresponsible.”
As we have blogged in the past, sleep apnea is major concern for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the trucking industry alike. The FMCSA estimates that nearly a third of all commercial truck drivers suffer from the breathing condition, which disrupts sleep throughout the night and causes drowsiness, lowered alertness, slower responses, and other symptoms during the daytime hours.
Sleep apnea’s effects on a commercial truck driver have also been linked to fatigued driving, one of the leading causes of commercial truck crashes.
According to trucking website Layover.com, “at least one study has concluded that the impact of untreated sleep apnea on driver performance is comparable to the performance of drivers whose blood alcohol concentrations are above federal limits for driving commercial vehicles.”
“I do not think the American people realize the danger that is on our nation’s highways,” Mrs. Lindsay says. “Sleep apnea is a condition that severely impairs a truck driver’s ability to operate their vehicles.”
Evidence shows that sleep apnea may have played a role in a deadly 2009 crash in Oklahoma that killed 10 people after the driver of a commercial tractor trailer dozed off behind the wheel.
Studies have shown that very few people with sleep apnea, commercial truck drivers included, realize they have the disorder. Thus the fight is not a fight to undermine our nation’s commercial truck drivers, but to raise awareness of the sleep apnea problem and actively work to prevent the behaviors that cause it.
“The amount of money it would take to put a safety program in place to focus on sleep apnea is miniscule, and the fact that (commercial carriers) are not doing it is just not acceptable,” Mrs. Lindsay asserts.
For more information about sleep apnea in the commercial trucking industry, visit http://sleepapneakills.org/