What would you tell your family if you fell asleep and caused an accident?

It doesn’t matter how experienced or competent you are. Sleep apnoea causes uncontrollable sleepiness, overcoming skill.

Think you can manage sleepiness? You open the window, turn the music up and have an energy drink/coffee. Sadly the evidence suggests these approaches don’t work for long and can’t be sustained. 1,2,3

The driver who has fallen asleep doesn’t brake/swerve to avoid/reduce the impact so these incidents are more severe as they tend to be at a higher speed and are 50% more likely to result in death or serious injury.

In the news

Sadly, sleep related incidents are increasingly in the news:
Bronx Train Crash – 2013
Selby Train Crash – 2001
American Airlines – 1999
Challenger Space Shuttle – 1988
Chernobyl – 1986
Three Mile Island – 1979

Of course these are the big stories that make the headlines, but sleepy people are up to 7 times more likely to have an accident.1

According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School in the United States, 250,000 drivers fall asleep at the wheel every day.

In a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 54% of adult drivers said they had driven while drowsy during the past year with 28% saying they had actually fallen asleep while driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving is a factor in more than 100,000 crashes, resulting in 1,550 deaths and 40,000 injuries annually in the USA.

Still thinking “it won’t happen to me?

If you have undiagnosed sleep apnoea, you may have forgotten what it feels like to be fully alert and awake. Sleepiness or drowsiness builds over time.

However, you can feel sharp and concentrate again with effective treatment.

Don’t fool yourself that it won’t happen to you. The statistics suggest that you are more likely to have an accident if you have untreated sleep apnoea.

It’s not worth the risk.

Think about it. If you had an accident caused by sleepiness, what would you tell your family?

1. Horne JA, Reyner LA. (1995) Sleep-related vehicle accidents. BMJ; 310: p565-567↩

2. Terán-Santos, Jimenez-Gomez, Cordero-Guevara. (1999) The Association between Sleep Apnea and the Risk of Traffic Accidents. N Engl J Med 1999; p340:847-851↩

3. Findley LJ, Unverzagt ME, Suratt PM. Automobile accidents involving patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. The American review of respiratory disease. 1988 Aug;138(2):337-40. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3195832external_link3 [accessed 2nd Dec 2013]↩

Created by Adrian Zacher | Page last updated 12th May 2017