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Disorders among Commercial Drivers Pose a Danger to Fellow Road Occupants

Commercial drivers are expected to show up to work well-rested and free from chemical substances, and most would never imagine reporting to work while intoxicated. However, many drivers report to work in an equally unsafe, undetected condition every day. Two recent accidents highlight the danger involved in licensing commercial drivers who have chronic, untreated health issues. The accidents have resulted in a call for more rigorous testing of commercial drivers in order to protect passengers, fellow drivers, and pedestrians from injury.

Numerous conditions can cause a driver to suddenly lose consciousness while behind the wheel, but a couple of these in particular are relatively common and can strike without warning—seizures and obstructive sleep apnea. Someone who suffers from seizures may experience them so rarely that they believe they have their condition under control. Despite the risks, patients may think that they can stop taking necessary medications to treat their condition. Unfortunately, this assumption may be mistaken. In a recent accident in Baltimore, witnesses describe seeing a bus driver experience something looking like a seizure before rear-ending a car and then running head-on into a city bus. Sadly, the bus accident resulted in six fatalities and numerous other injuries. The investigation into the driver’s background has revealed that the driver had a history of seizures, high blood pressure, and diabetes, but was still granted a medical certificate enabling him to drive commercially.

Obstructive sleep apnea causes sufferers to wake up repeatedly during the night when their breathing becomes obstructed. These individuals may feel tired during the day but not realize the extent of their exhaustion. To compensate for this deep exhaustion, sleep apnea sufferers may have trouble focusing and experience microbursts of sleep, where they briefly lose consciousness without realizing it is happening. If this occurs while the individual is traveling at a high rate of speed, they may cover hundreds of yards while unconscious, causing damage along the way. Last fall, a New Jersey train conductor entered a station at at twice the posted speed limit and crashed, injuring over 100 passengers and killing a woman on the station platform. An investigation into the driver revealed that he suffered from sleep apnea but had not been barred from driving. This incident, and others involving commercial truck drivers, has resulted in a call from federal rulemakers to mandate testing for sleep apnea among all commercial drivers. Currently, the tests are optional and up to a doctor’s discretion.

If you’ve been injured by a commercial driver in Mississippi and need help getting the money you deserve for your injuries, contact the seasoned and knowledgeable Gulfport area personal injury attorneys at the Gardner Law Firm for assistance with your claim, at 228-436-6555 in Biloxi, with additional offices in Pascagoula (228-762-6555) and Hattiesburg (601-582-4300).

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