Sleep Apnea Screening Could Prevent Transportation Accidents

The National Safety Council recently reported that 43 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep to eliminate the risks of working or driving in a fatigued state. Those surveyed complain of an inability to think clearly, make informed decisions, or be productive. And according to 81 percent of the respondents, they have jobs that are at high risk for fatigue, calling for sustained attention or demanding physical or cognitive tasks involved in driving a vehicle or working at a construction site.

The survey – Fatigue in the Workplace: Causes & Consequences of Employee Fatigue –
found that 97 percent of Americans say they have at least one of the leading nine risk factors for fatigue:

  • Working a non-day shift
  • Working at night or early morning
  • Jobs requiring sustained attention or physical or cognitive skills
  • Shifts of 10 + hours
  • Working 50 + hours a week
  • Getting less than seven hours of sleep per day
  • No rest breaks at work
  • Not getting at least 12 hours off between shifts
  • Commutes of 30 minutes or longer one way.

Seventy-six percent say they feel tired at work; 53 percent feel less productive; and 44 percent have difficulty focusing on their work. Fatigued employees are more likely to make critical safety errors that could lead to injury, such as vehicle crashes.

Another report, released in late December 2016 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, suggests that drivers who sleep only five or six hours in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to crash than drivers who get at least seven hours of sleep.

And the less sleep the person gets, the higher the crash rate, according to the findings. For instance, drivers in the study who got only four or five hours of sleep had four times the crash rate — approaching that of drunk drivers.

“If you have not slept seven or more hours in a given 24-hour period, you really shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car,”
says Jake Nelson, Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research for AAA.

Falling asleep at the wheel is clearly dangerous, but being sleepy affects your ability to drive safely even if you can stay awake. Here are some warning signs to help assess your fatigue factor:

  • Trouble focusing, or narrowing of attention
  • Head nodding, or inability to keep your eyes open
  • Short-term memory difficulty
  • Poor judgment, slower reaction time
  • Daydreaming and wandering thoughts
  • Constant yawning or rubbing your eyes
  • Drifting in your lane when driving.

How to Beat Driver Fatigue

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finds that drowsy driving caused at least 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and over 800 deaths in 2013-2014. The only way to address fatigue is by sleeping. Here are some guidelines to prevent fatigue:

  • Get a good night’s sleep before beginning a long road trip.
  • Limit driving to eight or 10 hours a day.
  • Take regular breaks, at least 15 minutes every two hours.
  • Share driving wherever possible.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before your trip. Even small amounts can significantly contribute to driver fatigue.
  • Don’t drive at times when you’d usually be sleeping.
  • Take a 15-minute powernap if you feel drowsy.

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