RAC research highlights need for more awareness of sleep disorder

12.00 | 7 June 2016 | | 2 comments

Eight out of 10 businesses that run vehicle fleets say they would benefit from greater awareness of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS), a condition that affects about 10% of the driving population.

This is one of the headline findings from research carried out by RAC Business and the OSA Partnership Group, which shows that 57% of businesses have very little awareness of the condition and the importance of detecting and treating OSAS among their drivers.

OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow breathing during sleep, which is particularly common among middle-aged men.

Studies show that a driver with untreated OSAS could be up to nine times more likely to have an accident.

Despite treatment being available on the NHS, the RAC suggests a significant number of sufferers remain undiagnosed due to concerns over losing their driving licence and livelihood. In the RAC survey of more than 500 UK businesses, 80% of respondents agreed that drivers are unlikely to raise concerns about OSAS with their GP, the DVLA or their boss.

OSA Partnership Group, with the support of RAC Business, launched a campaign in January 2016 to ensure professional drivers who were diagnosed with the condition were fast-tracked for treatment and back on the road within four weeks.

The campaign is calling on the Department of Health to make diagnosis and treatment of the condition a priority, pointing to statistics that suggest fatigue could account for 20% of accidents on the roads.

Jenny Powley, RAC Business, said: “Our research shows there is clearly a demand for more information and greater awareness among businesses about this condition, which can have devastating consequences if left undiagnosed, both for the driver and other road users.

“When you consider the significant number of commercial drivers affected, and the wider consequences if a driver has an accident due to falling asleep at the wheel, it must surely be a public health priority for the Government, and they have a role to play in ensuring employers are aware.”


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    In the Humber region, the regional support group raised funds to buy special ‘variable pressure machines’ that can be given to professional drivers whilst they wait the 8-12 weeks or so to get their NHS machine. This equipment costs around £500 but allows the user to continue being a productive yet safe member of society. I am the Chair of that group, a fellow sufferer and Road Safety Officer so I am well aware that people panic if they think they will lose their income, so for me it was a no brainer. Unfortunately not every area has a support group so it is a post code lottery. The problem may be much worse however as it is anticipated that OSA will mirror the % of diabetes, so it is no doubt set to get worse in future…that means drivers either working knowingly or unknowingly taking a gamble every day.

    Allan Robins, Hull
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    Just look up sleep apnoea and look at the ten simple signs that may (or may not) lead to a diagnosis of the problem. According to the ten symptoms I would imagine something like 9 out of every ten normal persons suffer to some degree from sleep apnoea either all the time or at least some of the time. It’s apparently an easy one to diagnose but a difficult one to live a normal life with once one is diagnosed as suffering from. One might as well say that lorry drivers and taxi drivers are grossly over weight and are therefore unfit to drive being more liable to suffer heart attacks, diabetes, strokes and sleep apnoea to name but a few other conditions.

    R.Craven Blackpool
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