Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can be a major issue for those who need to live with it. Yet when they take the wheel of a vehicle, it can become a potentially lethal danger to them and others.
That’s not to say OSA sufferers can’t drive. An estimated 25 million adults are affected by OSA in the U.S. alone, and most of them have never crashed. Yet research shows it increases crash risk by two and a half times.
Why is sleep apnea such an issue for drivers?
OSA limits someone’s ability to get a good night’s sleep. The muscles at the back of their throat relax too much, reducing their ability to take in oxygen. As they’d soon die without enough oxygen, the brain wakes them up. The end result is a disrupted night’s sleep. Night after night of this can leave a person physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. That can have a massive effect on many aspects of their life, including their ability to drive safely.
The good news is there are ways to counter the effects. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy has been shown to reduce crash risk among OSA sufferers by 70%.
Why worry about this if you don’t suffer from it?
Every time you drive somewhere, you interact with many other drivers. Being wide awake yourself can reduce the chance you are involved in a crash, but it cannot rule it out altogether. If you are unlucky enough to be injured by a driver who was tired due to their OSA, you need to understand how to hold them responsible.