A recent study shows that having any combination of poor health conditions is associated with an increased crash risk 2 to 4 times that of a healthy driver.
The working conditions of most truck drivers certainly don’t facilitate good health; countless hours behind the wheel, insufficient rest, and enough down time only to gobble up quick snacks and unbalanced meals found at fueling stations.
A new study looking at the link between truck driver health and accident risk, conducted at the University of Utah, indicates that behaviors such as these are linked to an increased chance of developing certain medical conditions which, in turn, are associated with an increased chance of getting into an accident.
Information on over 49,000 commercial truck drivers was examined for this study. Researchers found that fully one-third of the drivers had one or more of several health problems that have been associated with poor driving performance, including heart disease, diabetes, and lower back pain.
It was determined that drivers who had three or more of the identified health conditions had a two to four times increased risk of being in a trucking accident than their peers with fewer ailments.
The crash risk for the general population of truck drivers is 29 per 100 million miles traveled. By contrast, the population of drivers with three or more of the highlighted medical conditions jumped to 93 per 100 million miles traveled.
The purpose of the study, however, was not to show a cause and effect correlation between truck driver health and crash risk. It was intended, rather, to help identify what has become a public health issue.
In approximately 75 percent of accidents with injuries that involve truck drivers, it is the occupants of passenger vehicles who are getting hurt, according to researchers.
Matthew Thiese, lead author of the study noted the big take away from this study is that many of these crashes could be prevented.
Current guidelines only prohibit truckers from driving if they have a major health problem. There are no restrictions in place for multiple minor health problems.
Thiese, who also serves at the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (RMCOEH) as an assistant professor, goes on to say there is no protocol for examining the effects of multiple health conditions of drivers because they are still viewed as isolated factors.
Dr. Kurt Hegmann, director at RMCOEH and senior author of the study, hopes a better understanding of the relationship between driver health and crash risk will allow experts to better address issues about safety.
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