Multiple Health Problems, Multiple Crashes?
February 3, 2017 / Truck Accidents
A new study has determined that a commercial truck driver’s general health is connected to his likelihood of being in a crash.
Researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine discovered that drivers are two to four times more likely to crash if they have three or more medical conditions. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published the results in 2017.
Almost 50,000 commercial truck drivers were checked for 13 medical conditions that included some relatively common health concerns. Over one-third—34 percent—showed signs of at least one condition that has been statistically linked in the past to poor driver performance, such as:
- Diabetes that requires medication
- Lower back pain
- Heart disease.
The study also examined drivers for uncontrolled blood pressure and noted cases of serious obesity.
When the medical histories and crash histories of the drivers were matched, the ones with at least three ailments were more likely to have been in a crash. Among all truck drivers, there were 29 injury-producing crashes per 100 million miles traveled. But among the truck drivers with three or more medical conditions, the rate increased to 93 injury-producing crashes per 100 million miles traveled. The trends remained the same even after other factors that influence a driver’s abilities were taken into account, such as years of commercial driving experience and age.
This new research means that even if one ailment, such as diabetes, is manageable, when it is combined with anxiety and high blood pressure, for example, a driver’s crash risks are substantially increased. Currently, the guidelines for commercial truck drivers mean that those who have major health problems are taken out of the driving pool, but the guidelines do not take into account multiple instances of less-serious health conditions. The study’s lead author, Matthew Thiese, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor at RMCOEH, the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, commented, “Right now, conditions are thought of in isolation. There’s no guidance for looking at multiple conditions in concert.”
Thiese went on to note that for truck drivers — who sit for long hours behind the wheel, may not have the most nutritious food available, and often sleep poorly — it’s especially problematic to stay healthy.
For all of us on the roads, it’s in our best interests for research into the links with truck drivers’ health problems to continue. That’s because, when a truck hits another vehicle, it is those in the other vehicle who are hurt in three-fourths of injury-causing crashes. Kurt Hegmann, M.D., M.P.H., the senior author of the study and the director of RMCOEH, said, “If we can better understand the interplay between driver health and crash risk, then we can better address safety concerns.”
When Something Goes Wrong, We Are Left to Wonder
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