Residents of the greater Hillsborough area who have heard of sleep apnea may think of it as a condition that causes people to snore. They may even recognize that those with this condition may need to wear a mask at night to help them breathe better.
What some might not realize is that a trucker or driver of a commercial vehicle who has sleep apnea, particularly if it is going untreated, may be prone to having more commercial vehicle accidents than would other commercial drivers. The reason is that sleep apnea actually causes a person to experience low-quality sleep, meaning that even if they think they had 8 hours of sleep, their body will act as if they had much less. This is not surprising since a person with sleep apnea will, sometimes hundreds of times in one night, literally stop breathing for a few seconds.
With respect to driving, someone suffering with sleep apnea is likely to experience fatigue behind the wheel any time day or night, even if they think they got enough rest. Even if they manage to stay awake while driving, a driver with sleep apnea will likely show the same lack of attentiveness, alertness and coordination that anyone else who is lacking in sleep would experience. It may be for this very reason that someone diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea must show proof of treatment before he or she will be legally allowed to drive a business vehicle over state lines.
Drivers of commercial vehicles, and to some extent, their employers, have an obligation to make sure they can physically operate their vehicles safely. If they get behind the wheel with a health condition and wind up causing an accident because of that condition, they may be legally liable for the injuries they cause.