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Commercial Drivers Put Lives at Risk by Hiding Dangerous Medical Conditions

Before you take your next commercial bus ride, ask yourself if you feel confident that the driver is medically fit to operate the vehicle you are in. Do you believe that he is healthy enough to drive the massive vehicle without incident? Unfortunately, there’s a good chance he has a medical condition that he is hiding from his employer, his passengers, and you.

Honesty Isn’t Always the Chosen Policy

After years of a hands-off policy that allowed medically unfit drivers to operate commercial vehicles, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began requiring new and improved health screenings in 2014 before drivers could take their places behind the wheel. Under these new health regulations, 70,000 drivers were disqualified and no longer able to drive commercial vehicles due to medical conditions that were previously allowed.

And although these new health screenings are obviously more thorough and effective than those used in years past, they still contain one flaw: they can’t force a driver to be honest.

Some medical conditions are not obvious or discovered during a physical examination. Alcoholism, for example, is not something a doctor would necessarily be able to detect upon a typical visit. Nor would a medical professional always know that someone has a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. The only way a physician would know about conditions like these is if the driver told the doctor himself, and therein lies the problem.

Drivers know that certain medical conditions can prevent them from driving or cause them to lose their jobs, which is why many withhold the information from their doctors.

Bus Driver’s Medical Condition Possibly Causes Accident

A recent bus accident in Ohio is an example of the holes in the system. In April 2016, a Detroit-bound Greyhound bus drove off of the interstate when its driver allegedly blacked out. According to a passenger, she tried to alert the driver that the bus was tumbling, but received no response. The result was an accident that injured 35 people.

The driver told the police that he was drinking coffee, started coughing, and then blacked out, but no coughing was heard on the bus’s camera. An investigation revealed, however, that the incident could have been caused by the driver’s undiagnosed sleep apnea. A few weeks before the crash occurred, the driver was examined by a Department of Transportation doctor, who suspected he may have sleep apnea, a condition that disturbs a person’s sleep and leads to fatigue. Drivers can lose their jobs because of the condition if it is not treated. The doctor was concerned because he couldn’t see the back of the driver’s throat and gave him a 90-day waiver. He was also told to get tested for the disorder.

Instead, two days before the crash, the driver went to his personal physician, who claims that the driver never disclosed key symptoms of sleep apnea. As a result, a referral to a specialist was never issued, and further evaluation for the sleep disorder ended. A court-ordered test after the accident ultimately revealed that the driver did, in fact, have sleep apnea, which could have caused him to fall asleep behind the wheel. The driver is now terminated from commercial bus driving.

The Frightening Truth

The terrifying reality is that, instead of disclosing medical conditions that could potentially hurt or kill others, many drivers would rather keep that important information to themselves in order to keep their jobs or get hired. Furthermore, federal regulators don’t track accidents that are caused by commercial drivers with medical conditions, and neither do states. However, it is believed that hundreds of accidents are the result of drivers’ unknown medical conditions.

If you were injured in a truck accident that was not your fault, you may be entitled to receive financial compensation. The attorneys of Wayne Wright will work hard to help you hold the person who caused the accident accountable for his actions. Contact us today by calling 800-237-3334 to speak to one of our experienced attorneys about what we can do for you.