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Sleep Apnea May Have Been a Factor in California Bus Crash

Undiagnosed sleep apnea is extremely dangerous. This is true not only for the individual suffering from the sleep disorder, but for others as well. Many people don’t realize the impact that sleep apnea can have on their lives and the lives of those around them. The truth is, this sleep disorder is far more dangerous than you may realize.

Individuals who suffer from this sleep disorder aren’t getting quality sleep. This is because obstructive sleep apnea causes the sufferer to wake up multiple times during the night as a result of an obstructed airway. Most of the time, individuals don’t remember waking. Instead, the individual feels excessively tired throughout the day, has trouble focusing, memory problems, and a slew of other health consequences. Driving under these conditions is extremely dangerous and may cost you or others their lives.

Undiagnosed Sleep Disorders

In today’s fast paced world people feel that they don’t have time to be tired. In fact, many individuals with sleep apnea symptoms are hesitant to undergo testing. This is because testing for the disorder often requires the overnight stay in a sleep center. The overnight stay involves monitoring the sleeping patient in order to detect sleep disorders. A sleep analyst then reviews the data to assist with a diagnosis and treatment plan with the patient’s doctor.

However, far too many people never even make it to that stage. A large portion of the population just believes that being tired is a way of life. A busy life often leaves little time for rest. The same goes for adults who have children at home. They may assume their exhaustion is due to simply not getting enough sleep. However, it’s important to be aware of sleep apnea symptoms so you know when to speak with your doctor. Undiagnosed sleep disorders put your health at risk and make you a danger to everyone around you, especially if you have a job that requires focus for the protection and safety of others.

Sleep Disorders May Cause Accidents

With so many cases of undiagnosed sleep disorders, it’s difficult to say how many accidents they cause. However, we are finding out that the number is significant. In fact, it is believed that a deadly Californian bus crash may have been the result of undiagnosed sleep apnea. The Hill reports:

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Tuesday that undetected sleep apnea, along with a poor alert system for stopped highway traffic near utility work, was to blame for a crash that occurred when a tour bus slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer near Palm Springs, California last October. The incident left 13 people dead and 31 others injured.

The truck driver stopped on the highway for utility work. However, he did not resume driving after the stop. In addition to suffering from undiagnosed moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea, the driver had also violated hours-of-service rules prior to the crash. This is a dangerous and lethal combination as shown by this accident. The driver of the truck was charged with thirteen counts of vehicular manslaughter following the incident.

A Growing Epidemic

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only accident resulting from sleep disorders. In January of 2017 a train accident was likely the result of sleep apnea. A Long Island Rail Road accident injure more than 100 people. According to Reuters:

“We are tired of seeing commercial drivers being tired,” National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt said. “It’s predictable and preventable and taking lives.”

The NTSB has said sleep apnea has been the probable cause of 10 highway and rail accidents investigated by the agency in the past 17 years. The NTSB makes safety recommendations  but cannot impose new regulations.

Ten accidents over a 17 year period doesn’t sound like a lot. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these are major accidents investigated by the NTSB. This statistic does not include the numerous small accidents that still resulted in injury or death as a result of undiagnosed sleep disorders.

The problem is much larger than many people realize. Without the ability to impose new regulations the NTSB cannot require commercial drivers to undergo sleep disorder testing. It’s up to each individual driver to take control of their health and speak with their doctor about any possible sleep apnea symptoms.

Fortunately, those who undergo testing are quick to learn that treatment for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders is both easy and effective. Not only is it possible to quickly reduce and eliminate the damage done by the disorder, but most patients begin to feel better as soon as they start treatment.

If you think you may have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, speak with your health care provider today.

Call Mark Levy DDS at (614) 777-7350 for more information on sleep apnea treatment options.