Study finds sleep apnoea doesn’t create an additional crash risk

New research shows driving between midnight and 6am, transporting unladen trailers and driving without anti-lock braking systems are all greater crash risks than Obstructive Sleep Apnoea.

The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology based on Australian research. The study interviewed 1,047 long distance truck drivers in New South Wales and Western Australia.

The results showed that although there was a high prevalence of sleep apnoea in heavy vehicle drivers, it had no apparent effect on the likelihood of the driver being involved in a crash.

Driving with empty trailers doubled the crash risk, while schedules that included the period between midnight and 6am more than tripled the likelihood of a crash.

Less experienced drivers had three times the crash risk compared to drivers with 10 or more year’s experience, while trucks that lack anti-lock braking systems or cruise control were also more likely to crash.

Lead author Dr Mark Stevenson said it was surprising to find that sleep apnoea did not create an additional crash risk, but warned drivers against taking the condition lightly. “We did see a very high proportion of drivers who had or were likely to suffer from sleep apnoea in both our crash and control groups,” Dr Stevenson said.

“These drivers can be coming to the job with sleep deprivation, which can definitely cause alertness issues behind the wheel.

“With regards to anti-lock braking systems and cruise control, clearly our work highlights that these devices are highly beneficial to the driving task and should be used and maintained regularly,” he said.

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