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Federal regulators withdraw proposal for sleep apnea testing

The dangers of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in those who drive trucks and operate trains have been widely reported. One physician with the Harvard School of Public Health noted last year, "Drivers with untreated obstructive sleep apnea who were noncompliant with treatment had a five-fold increase in the risk of serious preventable crashes."

Last year, two federal agencies proposed a rule to require these drivers and operators to undergo testing for OSA. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FNCSA) noted in their proposal that OSA "can cause unintended sleep episodes and resulting deficits in attention, concentration, situational awareness, and memory…." The agencies cited a number of fatal truck and train crashes where OSA was found to be a factor.

Now, however, both the FMCSA and the FRA seem to have had a change of heart. They have withdrawn their proposal. While acknowledging that OSA is an "on-going concern," they say that individual truck and railroad companies should decide whether or not to test their employees and that current safety regulations and programs are sufficient to deal with the issue.

Not everyone in the federal government is on board with the withdrawal of the proposal. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it was "disappointed." The NTSB reiterated the number of accidents linked to OSA in recent years. The board has advocated for greater awareness of and screening for the condition.

Despite greater awareness of the dangers of OSA, sadly, many companies don't take action to combat safety issues unless they're required to do so. Crashes involving trucks can cause serious and often fatal injuries to people in cars and other smaller vehicles.

If you have been injured in a crash or a loved one has been killed, an investigation can and should determine whether the driver of the larger vehicle was suffering from OSA and if other safety precautions were lacking. A Louisiana personal injury attorney can work to ensure that all responsible parties are held accountable.

Source: National Public Radio, "Regulators Pull Plan To Test Truckers, Train Operators For Sleep Apnea," Bill Chappell, Aug. 08, 2017

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