Fatal Accident Caused by Drowsy Truck Driver Spreads Awareness for Sleep Apnea

Forty-five years of marriage ended when a distracted, fatigued semi-truck driver took his eyes off the road and drove his 18-wheeler into the back of a Hyundai.

The long-time married couple had stopped their Hyundai, waiting for a line of traffic to pass through a construction zone on the west side of Texarkana. They never even noticed the speeding tractor-trailer looming from behind. The truck was traveling 50 miles an hour when it collided with the car. Pictures of the truck accident’s aftermath showed a mangled mess of metal stretched over 100 yards on the road.

The husband died from massive head injuries two days later. And now the wife has taken up the crusade to find answers to how a truck would be traveling at such a high speed, on cruise control, into a construction zone.

In her search for answers the Texas resident discovered that the truck driver had previously been diagnosed with severe sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea essentially causes breathing problems during sleep, so those who suffer from it rarely get a good night’s sleep. This poor sleep often translates into a constant state of drowsiness during the day. The danger of a perpetually sleepy truck driver on the road is undeniable. In fact, studies suggest that drivers with untreated sleep apnea are seven times more likely to be in an injury-causing car accident.

A year after the accident, the widow founded a foundation to help spread awareness ofr sleep apnea. “It is actually an epidemic in the trucking industry and the fact that they are not doing anything about it is just not acceptable,” she said.

As a result of her efforts, some trucking companies have adopted sleep programs where doctors screen drivers for sleep apnea. Companies using the program have found decreased medical costs and decreased accident rates. It is her hope that others will learn from her the tragic accident that took her husband’s life and continue to take safety measures.

Source: KVUE.com, “Woman fights for sleep apnea awareness after husband’s death,” 11/11/11.