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Widow Takes on the FMCSA’s Lack of Regulations for Sleep Apnea

In May 2010, Wanda Lindsay’s whole world turned upside down. She and her husband John were stopped in traffic on Interstate 30 in Texarkana, Texas, when a large truck barreled into the back of their car. Wanda was seriously injured; John died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash. The truck driver, David Downey, was never charged in the case. However, his medical reports, which were produced in the course of a lawsuit, revealed that he had been diagnosed with sleep apnea. There was no conclusive evidence that the driver’s sleep apnea caused the truck crash.

Sleep apnea is a respiratory impairment caused by a blocked airway, which can cause sufferers to fall asleep during the day, even after a full night’s sleep. Some studies show that at least one-third of all truck drivers suffer from the condition.

Since 2009, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has urged mandatory apnea testing and treatment for drivers of trucks, buses and trains as well as airline pilots and ship captains. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has no regulations that require testing or treatment for the condition.

In an effort to bring awareness of this issue, Lindsay founded the John Lindsay Foundation last July. In December, an FMCSA advisory committee will hear testimony on apnea; Lindsay expects to speak before the committee.

Some truck companies, on their own initiative, require that truckers who are at risk for apnea participate in screening. Some risk factors include obesity, snoring, chronic breathing patterns, smoking, age and a large neck size (greater than 17 inches). Men are also more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than women.

When truckers are diagnosed with sleep apnea, some trucking companies don’t allow them back on the road until they get treatment. However, the decision about whether to remove a truck driver with sleep apnea is too important to be left up to the individual driver or trucking company. Many carriers are reluctant to require their drivers to be screened and treated due to the cost, which can be up to $3,500 per driver. Some drivers are afraid to get tested, fearing that a positive diagnosis could cost them their job.

While these concerns are understandable, it’s important to consider that the truck driver with sleep apnea who gets behind the wheel puts innocent motorists at risk for serious injuries or even death. The treatment for apnea is generally easy and usually effective, and we believe the FMCSA should require truck drivers at risk for sleep apnea to get screened and treated.

Nearly 5,000 people are killed every year in accidents with large trucks; hundreds of thousands of others are seriously injured. Ensuring that truck drivers with sleep apnea receive treatment is one way to prevent many of these accidents and protect innocent motorists. 

Experienced New Jersey and New York Truck Accident Lawyers

The truck accident lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., have been helping people who have been injured in New Jersey and New York truck accidents since 1981. We have handled thousands of accident injury claims, obtaining positive results for our clients in many instances. Each case and the results vary, so we invite you to contact an accident lawyer at our New Jersey or New York offices to discuss the specifics of your situation. If we take your case, you can be assured we will use all the resources of our law firm to develop a strong argument for money damages and other compensation for you.

To speak with a personal injury lawyer with many years of experience, contact our New Jersey or New York offices at (800) LAW-2000. We do not charge attorney’s fees unless we are successful in your case and our initial consultations are free.