Traffic accidents are a very important social problem because of its enormous and devastating consequences in the economic and social area. According to the last report about the global situation of traffic safety by the WHO (World Health Organization) falling asleep at the wheel is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents.
Up to 24% of accidents are caused by these reasons and according to the DGT up to 20% of accidents are related to drowsiness equal to other risk factors like alcohol or speeding.
Up to 52% of sleep apnea pacients recognise falling asleep at the wheel according to the DGT (General Direction of Traffic), therefore we have to pay special attention to sleep disorders as a risk factor for traffic accidents.
How does sleep apnea influence traffic accidents?
Sleep apnea or apnea-hypopnea syndrome (SAHS) is one of the diseases that have most influence on traffic accidents. Sleep apnea is characterized by recurring obstructions of the upper airway during the sleep, affecting a range of adult people between 2 and 4%.
Airway obstructions cause a decrease in the amount of oxygen in blood and unconscious awakenings that produce a restless sleep. This leads to the appearance of drowsiness and tiredness during the day.
Sleep apnea is the most deadly and dangerous sleep disorder in case of traffic accidents because patients believe that they have rested at night but in fact they have had a restless sleep that produces somnolence and tiredness that lead to a reduced psychometric capacity, etc.
In case of other sleep disorders like insomnia or narcolepsy these patients are aware of that they did not have an adequate sleep rest, in general, they tend to be more cautious and more cautious.
The DGT advises these patients to respect the bedtimes and to exercise caution regarding driving times as they are more dangerous at night. It is recommended to avoid boring journeys, large meals, drinking alcohol or relaxing medication, relaxed postures, high temperature and it is recommended to pay attention to natural stimulants like caffeine that only mask the lack of sleep and can cause a rebound effect.
In any case, you must respect the doctor’s instructions in relation to driving if you have sleep apnea or other disorders that may pose a risk factor at the wheel.