Most fleet bosses would benefit from learning more about a sleeping disorder that’s been found to increase the chances of a driver having an accident, new RAC Business research suggests.
Over half (57%) the businesses questioned by RAC Business and the OSA Partnership Group admit they know very little about obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) or the impact it can have on their drivers.
An even bigger proportion (80%) feel they’d benefit from being more aware about the symptoms of OSAS and how it can be detected and treated.
The findings, RAC Business says, highlight the need for the Government to prioritise the condition’s detection and treatment – and ensure professional drivers who are diagnosed can return to the road as quickly as possible by being fast-tracked for treatment, as called for by a campaign spearheaded by the OSA Partnership Group and backed by RAC Business.
OSAS affects around one in 10 adults and is particularly common among overweight, middle-aged men.
Previous research has shown that if left untreated it can make a driver up to nine times likelier to fall asleep at the wheel and have an accident. It has been estimated that tiredness and nodding off behind the wheel could be responsible for as many as one in five road accidents.
Although the disorder can be effectively treated, it is thought many drivers suffer in silence because they fear losing both their licence and livelihood.
And four fifths of the 500 firms surveyed agree that professional drivers are unlikely to raise concerns about possible OSAS with their GP, boss or the DVLA as a result of those fears.
Jenny Powley, corporate sales director with RAC Business, says: “What our research shows is that there is clearly a demand for more information and greater awareness among businesses about this condition, which can have devastating consequences if left undiagnosed, both for the driver and other road users.
“When you consider the significant number of commercial drivers affected, and the wider consequences if a driver has an accident due to falling asleep at the wheel, it must surely be a public health priority for the Government, and they have a role to play in ensuring employers are aware.”
Professor John Stradling, of the OSA Partnership Group, says introducing a compulsory four-week wait turnaround for diagnosis and treatment would reassure drivers with symptoms of OSAS that they will be fast-tracked through the system.