Driving tired ‘more dangerous’ than drink-driving

12.00 | 23 December 2016 | | 3 comments

Driving with an undiagnosed sleep condition is more dangerous than drink-driving, according to the RAC and the Road Haulage Association (RHA)

The two organisations have joined forces to raise awareness of conditions such as obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS), particularly among employers of commercial vehicle drivers.

They points to research published earlier this month* which shows that driving with conditions such as OSAS can be more of an impairment than having too much to drink.

The partners are backing calls for a fast track diagnostic and treatment pathway for those suspected of having the condition, especially those who drive for a living.

Currently drivers can wait months for treatment but the RAC and RHA have thrown their weight behind the ‘Four Week Wait’ campaign which calls on the Department for Health to implement a four week waiting limit from diagnosis to treatment.

Typically an OSAS sufferer will not always be aware that they have the condition, but will feel drowsy during the daytime and therefore become more prone to fall asleep at the wheel when driving.

Nicholay Lyes, RAC roads policy spokesperson, said: “Commercial drivers are vital to the health and growth of the UK’s economy, so it’s only right that those behind the wheel are safe and aware of any health threats that might impair their driving ability.

“HGV drivers are among the most highly trained and skilled on the roads, but something like obstructive sleep apnoea can affect anybody, regardless of ability and experience, which is why we feel it is vital that they have access to a fast track diagnosis and treatment that ensures job security and they are back on the road within a few weeks.”

Colin Snape, RHA deputy policy director, said: “Drivers need to have confidence that if they come forward they will get treatment quickly, so that they can return to driving in no more than four weeks.

“The ‘Four Week Wait’ campaign sets out the standard that NICE needs to adopt if the transport community is to tackle this important road safety issue effectively.”



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    A loop hole is until you see the Consultant (after all the tests) you are technically ‘suspected’ of having Apnoea and up until that point you don’t have to notify the DVSA. It is as clear as day though that before you get the ‘official nod’ you KNOW you have it so anyone facing the prospect of losing their livelihood will have this dilemma.
    In addition to being a Road Safety Officer, I am also the Chair of a Regional Apnoea Support Group. In recognising this issue our group has fundraised to buy VPAP (Variable Positive Air Pressure) machines explicitly to loan to professional drivers and bridge the gap from diagnosis to allocation of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) machine. I am not aware of this happening anywhere outside of the Humber Region.
    The real issue is with the CCG’s, here in the Humber the North Bank CCG’s are progressive and fund on the recommendation of the Clinic whereas the South Bank CCG’s follow a black & white interpretation and so jeopardise safety. The working group must include the Dept of Health & NICE to force funding of VPAP machines to bridge the allocation gap for professional drivers…it’s not rocket science and in the scheme of things not expensive, 2 VPAPs cost our group £1k but compare that to the cost of a RTC. They should follow DfT’s advice and just THINK!

    Allan Robins, Road Safety Hull CC
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    Who on earth is going to voluntarily admit that they have this problem and the possibility of losing their job or being laid of for some time until given the medical ok?

    Why do we consider that HGV drivers are prone to this condition? Is there actual incontrovertible evidence that they frequently fall asleep at the wheel? Are they identified as being at greater risk than normal in any stats?

    Perhaps an in depth study should be made amongst HGV drivers to actually find out about their lifestyle, drinking and eating habits, calorie consumption against actual energy used etc. so that we can all satisfy ourselves that they are no greater threat than any other drivers.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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    The report did mention HGV drivers in particular and we must remember the two most recent changes that have taken place. Both no doubt due to pressure from the same Road Haulage Industry. The first was last year of increasing the maximum speed of HGVs on some roads they can now do greater mileage than before and therefore make more deliveries in the same work time period.

    Then this year we see that the haulage industry are going to be able to increase the size of their vehicles by some 15% or about one sixth in size. So no doubt with the greater distances being now enabled now they can indeed deliver more goods to more stores and all within the law. Perhaps this would mean that costs will be reduced as would the goods they are transporting.

    I wonder just how many of those drivers are thankful for the easing of speed limits and the greater loading and more work involved in the same amount of time. I hope they do not fall asleep on the job due to exhaustion.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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