My lawyer friend Ken Shigley recently blogged about truckers’ constant struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle. He approached the subject humorously by quipping, “If you handle truck wreck litigation so you can do research at truck stops, you might be a redneck lawyer.” But as Shigley pointed out, it’s very difficult for commercial truck drivers to keep a healthy diet and exercise regimen. This is a serious problem in Michigan (one of the fattest states in the nation), especially since obesity can cause sleep apnea, leading to tired truckers who are more likely to cause truck accidents.
Walk into any gas station or truck stop in Michigan and you’ll find pre-packaged, processed foods chock full of empty calories: sodium, sugar, various preservatives that are tough to pronounce and little else. If a trucker opts for warm food, he could heat something frozen in the microwave, or grab a fast bite at a Burger King, McDonald’s, Taco Bell or a mom’n’pop greasy spoon attached to the stop. Clearly, anyone trying to maintain a nutritious diet would be hard-pressed to find a suitable meal at one of these establishments.
Our Michigan truck accident lawyers stress that local truck stops are lacking fresh produce — the key to healthy waistlines and hearts. And exercise facilities are no where to be found, leaving truckers with little options for cardiovascular activity.
Obesity = Sleep Apnea = Tired Truckers = Preventable Michigan Truck Accidents
Because of these factors, many Michigan truck drivers are obese. Obesity is a contributing factor to obstructive sleep apnea, because extra weight essentially obstructs the airway. Obstructive sleep apnea is the temporary stoppage of breathing during sleep, often resulting in daytime fatigue. It typically affects middle-age, overweight men. The symptoms include loud snoring, abnormal snoring with pauses and gasps, excessive daytime sleepiness, memory changes, depression and irritability. Sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke and heart attack.
In a previous blog about truckers with sleep apnea, I spoke about a proposal from the Medical Review Board of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to test overweight truck drivers for sleep apnea, and to suspend them until treatment is received. The government recommendation is based upon findings showing that truck drivers with sleep apnea have a much greater chance of causing a truck accident than truckers without the condition (Findley et al.).
Of course, if a truck driver frequently wakes throughout the evening due to sleep apnea, he will be exhausted when he’s supposed to be thinking clearly and driving safely. That’s why it’s common for truckers with sleep apnea to fall asleep at the wheel, feel too drowsy to react and prevent an accident, or fail to exercise good driving judgment overall. Because of this sad fact, Michigan truck accident attorneys should be inquiring about the defendant truck driver’s weight, medical conditions and employer negligence during legal discovery of truck accident cases.
Ken Shigley says it would be refreshing to see truck stop chains start marketing to truckers on the basis of healthy food options and availability of gym facilities along with showers. The truck accident attorneys of Michigan Auto Law also think it would be refreshing for management of Michigan truck companies to include self-care for truckers in their policies and training, giving them pointers on how to eat healthy and keep active on the road. We believe if truckers were healthier, many senseless truck accidents could be prevented. If you have any suggestions to help truckers improve their well-being, please let us know by making a comment below.
— Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by jk5854