Updated March 8, 2019
Emily Clark. Morgan Bass. Abbie DeLoach. McKay Pittman. Caitlyn Baggett. All promising young nursing students—and all tragically killed in 2015 on an early April morning in a fiery collision with a semi-truck driven by a man named John Wayne Johnson. Crash investigators quickly pinpointed the likely cause of the wreck: drowsy driving by Johnson. Indeed, Johnson had a history of falling asleep at the wheel due to a serious condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
If someone suffers from OSA, their throat muscles relax during sleep, blocking the airway and impeding breathing. When this happens, according to the Mayo Clinic, the person rouses briefly to reopen the airway. These constant interruptions stop them from getting deep, restful sleep. As a result, people with OSA feel fatigued or even exhausted during waking hours. In extreme cases, they may experience symptoms similar to narcolepsy—that is, falling asleep with little or no warning.
Anyone can develop OSA. A review of studies on the subject noted that the condition affects roughly 5% of the general population. But commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers like John Wayne Johnson are at even greater risk. One study cited in the review showed that more than 28% of CMV drivers suffered from OSA—an estimated 2.4 to 3.9 million people. And a second study revealed that approximately 50% of CMV drivers were at risk for the affliction, possibly because many CMV drivers are male, older, sedentary, and overweight or obese—all risk factors for OSA.
Truck drivers with untreated OSA are five times more likely to be involved in a motor-vehicle crash. Although several sleep scientists agree that mandatory screening, diagnosis, and treatment of OSA in truck drivers could reduce the rate of accidents, no such requirements exist at a federal or state level. Innocent motorists like Emily Clark, Morgan Bass, Abbie DeLoach, McKay Pittman, and Caitlyn Baggett remain at risk.
Accidents involving large commercial trucks typically result in serious, life-changing injuries. If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a truck accident, contact the Indianapolis Truck Accident Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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