Fleets warned of potentially fatal sleep disorder
The RAC has joined forces with the Sleep Apnoea Partnership Group to alert drivers to the issue and the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel due to obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS). The condition is a severe form of sleep apnoea that is characterised by symptoms including excessive daytime sleepiness.
According to research, drivers who have the condition but who are not being treated are six times more likely to have an accident than other drivers. And, according to the Sleep Apnoea Partnership Group, in tests of simulated driving, sleep apnoea patients had a driving performance at least as bad as drivers over the alcohol limit.
In Britain, 5% of the adult population are thought to have undiagnosed sleep apnoea, of which about a quarter have the more severe form of the condition, OSAS.
While 400,000 people have been diagnosed and are being treated for the condition, it is believed that up to 1.4 million drivers have not been diagnosed and may be at risk of falling asleep at the wheel without knowing why.
RAC technical director David Bizley said: ‘This issue should be a real concern for anybody who drives a vehicle, whether it’s a car, a van or a heavy goods vehicle (HGV). In fact, an activity such as driving on a motorway can exacerbate the problem as it can be extremely monotonous and hypnotic, particularly if you’re already feeling sleepy.
‘There is a real need to raise awareness of this issue, particularly among employers who run fleets of vehicles, whether company cars or delivery vans. The consequences of falling asleep at the wheel can be catastrophic, both for the driver themselves and anybody in their vicinity.
‘But it’s also important to emphasise there is a solution as very effective treatment is available. If you suspect that you may have the condition, speak to your GP and get it checked out.’
Following a recent collaboration between the Partnership Group and the DVLA, a document has been developed that provides clear guidance on driving with OSA and OSAS. The full document can be found at http://www.sleep-apnoea-trust.org/driving-and-sleep-apnoea.htm, and the DVLA’s summary at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/motorists-warned-about-dangers-of-untreated-obstructive-sleep-apnoea-syndrome.