Sleep disorder is more lethal than drink driving

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About one in six British HGV drivers is said to be suffering from a form of sleep disorder and may require medical treatment, a study says.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) could lead to an increase in fatal road accidents if left unchecked, according to experts. BBC 1’s ‘Real Story’ is due to air a documentary titled “Killer in the cab” tonight (Monday 21 November 2005), at 7:30pm examining the condition. According to the Royal College of Physicians, it is thought that 1-4% of the population, mostly among middle-aged men suffer from OSA. Research for the ‘Respironics’ study, which will be featured in tonight’s programme, involved more than 900 anonymous drivers in England and Wales. It was led by sleep scientist Melanie Marshall, who said that sufferers “are more lethal than drink drivers.”

In January 2002, lorry driver Paul Couldridge was jailed for eight years and banned from driving for life after killing an engaged couple, when he fell asleep at the wheel of an HGV on the M20 in Kent (pictured). Maidstone Crown Court heard how Couldridge had already been told by doctors to stop driving because he was suspected to be suffering from OSA. It also emerged that he had been responsible for 15 other minor incidents due to suffering from the condition. Findings of the report could have serious implications for both the NHS and the road haulage industry.

Real Story is expected to reveal in its programme, that some truckers who suspect they have the condition may be hesitant to come forward, as their HGV licence is suspended until they have been treated. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) denied the problem was rife among HGV drivers across the UK.

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