A new document, titled ‘Sleep Apnoea and Driving, the facts’, has been made available to commercial drivers, providing them with answers to the most commonly asked questions surrounding driving and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome (OSAS).
This is a condition which is particularly prevalent among HGV and PCV drivers, and excessive sleepiness is thought to be responsible for up to 20% of motorway traffic accidents, according to a 2010 SleepMed study.
The document, which has been developed following collaboration between the OSA Partnership Group and the DVLA, has taken into account input from clinicians and the haulage industry, while adhering to the strict legal framework within which the DVLA operates.
Professor John Stradling from the Oxford Sleep Clinic said: “It is vital that we do not push the problem underground by making it difficult for commercial drivers to admit that they have symptoms. Therefore members of the OSA Partnership Group have worked closely with the DVLA to agree a consistent process that highlights the importance and the longer term benefits of seeking treatment quickly.”
Those most at risk of having the condition are overweight middleaged men. OSAS can be fully treated quickly and easily; when the symptoms are controlled, quality of life can improve considerably. However if left untreated OSAS is likely to impact on overall health and wellbeing, and can impact on life expectancy.
Ian Gallagher, Head of Policy for DVLA Policy at FTA, said: “We understand from talking to our members that many drivers have concerns about seeking medical advice for fear of losing their licence. However this document provides answers to many questions about OSAS and also offers advice on how to access treatment as quickly as possible.”
The OSA Partnership Group has been established to bring together organisations from the commercial vehicle sector, clinicians, patient groups and those interested in health and safety at work together to raise awareness of sleep apnoea and to address the road safety issues associated with the condition.
Jan Chandaman, Acting Head of Medical Licensing Policy at the DVLA, added: “Our concern, first and foremost, has to be the safety of road users – both drivers and others and we want drivers to come forward straight away if they have any symptoms of the condition. Once they are receiving treatment and their symptoms are brought under control, driving can resume without jeopardising their safety and that of other road users.”