Medical conditions, such as cardiac disease, increase the risk of truckers suffering an emergency at the wheel, and raise their risks of being involved in an accident.
That information comes from a new study, which focused on more than 49,000 commercial truck drivers. The researchers found that 34% of truck drivers suffered from at least one chronic medical condition, including diabetes, heart disease, or lower back pain. All of these conditions are typically linked to poor driving performance, and could significantly increase the risk of being involved in an accident.
Researchers found that many truck drivers were likely to suffer from more than one such condition. Truck drivers, who suffered three or more medical conditions, were 2 to 4 times more likely to be involved in a truck accident, compared to healthier truck drivers. The general accident rate in the study was 29 per 100 million miles traveled. Among drivers who suffered from three or more flagged medical problems, the rate was a staggering 93 per million miles traveled.
The lesson to take home from the study is simple – poor health contributes to poor driving performance, and increases accident risks for truck drivers, motorists, pedestrians, and others using the roadways. However, truck drivers can manage these risks. Many of these health conditions are the result of poor lifestyle choices. For instance, truck drivers who spend longer hours driving, and eat unhealthy or junk food during their breaks, are much more likely to suffer from one of the medical conditions that increase accident risks. A healthier diet and adherence to federal guidelines for work hours would make for healthier and safer truckers.
According to researchers, truck driver health is not just a trucking safety issue, but also a public health issue, because so many of the people injured in truck accidents every year are occupants of the other vehicles involved in the accident. Some current guidelines address truck drivers’ health, but do not specifically prevent persons suffering from certain symptoms from driving. The researchers are calling for better guidance that would specifically identify dangerous medical conditions that affect not just the health of the driver, but also public safety.