Tired of driving?
The RAC is making a call for better awareness and has joined forces with the Sleep Apnoea Partnership Group to alert drivers to the issue and the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel.
Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) is a severe form of sleep apnoea which is characterised by symptoms including excessive daytime sleepiness.
OSAS is a serious condition where the muscles in the throat relax too much during sleep, obstructing the airway, which causes the sufferer to temporarily stop breathing and consequently repeatedly wake up to start breathing again. The sufferer is usually unaware this is going on and it can occur hundreds of times in a night, leading to daytime sleepiness and other serious health problems. As a result those drivers who have the condition, but who are not being treated, are at risk to themselves and other road users as they are six times more likely to have an accident than other drivers.
In Britain, 5 per cent of the adult population are thought to have undiagnosed sleep apnoea, of which about a quarter have the more severe form of the condition, OSAS.
While 400,000 people have been diagnosed and are being treated for the condition, it is believed that up to 1.4 million drivers have not been diagnosed and may be at risk of falling asleep at the wheel without knowing why.
And, according to the Sleep Apnoea Partnership Group, in tests of simulated driving, sleep apnoea patients had a driving performance at least as bad as drivers over the alcohol limit.
But while there are serious concerns about the danger this creates on the UK’s road network, effective treatment is available which can address the symptoms very quickly and will enable patients to once again drive safely.
RAC technical director David Bizley said, “This issue should be a real concern for anybody who drives a vehicle, whether it’s a car, a van or a heavy goods vehicle (HGV).
“In fact, an activity such as driving on a motorway can exacerbate the problem as it can be extremely monotonous and hypnotic, particularly if you’re already feeling sleepy. There is a real need to raise awareness of this issue, particularly among employers who run fleets of vehicles, whether company cars or delivery vans.”
Mr. Bizley urged action by fleet managers and individual drivers, “It’s also important to emphasise there is a solution as very effective treatment is available. If you suspect that you may have the condition, speak to your GP and get it checked out.”