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Study: Drivers with sleep apnea have increased risk for auto accidents

Sleep apnea may cause impairments, such as drowsiness and reduced attentiveness, which may result in people causing serious motor vehicle crashes.

Auto accidents are all too common on the streets and highways in Connecticut, and often have serious repercussions. Due to motor vehicle collisions, drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bystanders and others may suffer serious or catastrophic injuries, as well as death. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that there were 255 fatal crashes across the state in 2013, resulting in more than 270 deaths. There are a number of factors, which may contribute to causing serious wrecks, including drowsiness. Based on the findings of a study that was recently published in the journal Sleep, people who suffer from sleep apnea have an increased risk for motor vehicle accidents.

What is sleep apnea?

In general, sleep apnea is a type of sleep disorder. The breathing of those who suffer from this condition repeatedly stops and starts while they are sleeping. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea may occur due to the throat muscles relaxing, or people's brains not sending the appropriate signals to the muscles that control their breathing.

This disorder may cause a range of symptoms. The Mayo Clinic points out that these include insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness and attention problems, among others. These effects may lead to impairments, which make operating motor vehicles a dangerous undertaking for those who suffer from sleep apnea.

Study examines link between sleep apnea and auto accident risk

Researchers out of Sweden conducted a study to determine if there was an association between sleep apnea and an increased likelihood of getting into an auto accident. They studied 1,478 patients who suffer from this condition and analyzed their medical records and objective motor vehicle accident data. The researchers compared the data of the participant group with that of a control population group of 21,118. Those chosen for the control group had been involved in at least one collision during the study period, between 2002 and 2012.

Sleep apnea increases collision risk

According to Science Daily, the study found that those who suffer from sleep apnea are close to 2.5 times more likely to be involved in motor vehicle collisions than other drivers. This increased risk may be associated with, and predicted by, specific clinical features. These include the use of sleeping pills and suffering from severe excessive daytime sleepiness. Furthermore, getting five hours, or less, of sleep per night may also contribute to the added crash risk for sleep apnea patients.

Based on the study's findings, suffering from sleep apnea and driving may put people, and others at risk. However, those whose sleep disorders are being treated and managed using continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, may limit their associated risks. Science Daily reports that the study determined those who use CPAP therapy for at least four hours per night reduced their incidence of auto accidents by 70 percent.

Consulting with an attorney

When people in Stratford, and throughout elsewhere, are injured in collisions with drivers who suffer from sleep apnea, they may require medical treatment and care. As a result, they may incur medical expenses and suffer lost wages, which may impact their ability to provide for their families. Depending on the circumstances, however, the negligent drivers may be held financially responsible for the resulting damages. Therefore, people who have experienced this type of situation may benefit from working with an attorney to understand their rights and options.