The first lawsuit against a commercial carrier blaming sleep apnea for contributing to a fatal highway crash was settled earlier this month in Texas. Wanda Lindsay, who became an activist against sleep apnea in the trucking industry after her husband was killed in a May 2010 crash, settled with Celadon for $3 million.
Mrs. Lindsay and her husband John had been enjoying retired life to the fullest – spending time with their children and grandchildren, planning trips, and traveling, when a sleep-apnea afflicted truck driver slammed into the back of their vehicle while it was stopped in a highway construction zone.
Evidence showed the driver of the Celadon truck, who died in the crash, had been previously diagnosed with sleep apnea, a condition characterized by punctuated, shallow breathing while sleeping. Sleep apnea sufferers experience lowered alertness, drowsiness, slower responses, fatigue, and other symptoms that can and often do prove deadly behind the wheel of a moving truck. The driver that collided with the Lindsay’s vehicle refused treatment for the condition.
Part of the settlement requires Celadon to educate its drivers about the dangers of sleep apnea in relation to driving tractor trailers. Under current laws, commercial truck drivers may be treated for the condition and retain their commercial driver’s license; however, there is a widespread perception amongst truckers that a sleep apnea diagnosis will lead to job termination.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is currently considering changes in the law that would place driving restrictions on sleep-apnea diagnosed truckers. In one recommendation made by the Medical Review Board and the Motor Carrier Safety Committee, drivers with a BMI (body mass index) of 35 or higher would have to undergo a sleep apnea evaluation. Another recommendation would immediately suspend commercial truckers who met certain criteria, such as having a sleep-related crash or other incident on record. A draft of the final rules is expected to be completed before the end of the first 2012 quarter.
Sleep Health Centers