A leading road safety charity is calling on fleets to screen drivers for sleep apnoea before allowing them to drive on business, after research revealed as many as 700,000 people in the UK could be affected by the condition.
Drivers who suffer from sleep apnoea are prone to falling asleep at the wheel, which presents a major safety risk for them and other road users.
Brake is also calling for funding to raise awareness of the condition.
“We want to see professional funding for awareness campaigns, especially for commercial drivers,” said Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake.
“We want to introduce screenings in companies before employees are allowed to drive.”
Townsend made her comments at a conference to highlight the issue, which was organised by Brake and Cambridge Weight Plan.
At the conference the organisations urged MPs to invest in raising awareness on the condition that could save lives on British roads.
Obstructive sleep apnoea is a medical condition that makes falling asleep at the wheel much more likely.
The highest percentage of those suffering from sleep apnoea are mid-40-year-old men who are overweight.
The condition is treatable with breathing equipment available on the NHS. It is also treatable through targeted weight loss.
Brake urged MPs to help fund awareness campaigns and work with companies to put in place effective screening methods before drivers go out on the roads.
“It is horrifying to think that so many people who drive for work may be vulnerable to sleep apnoea,” said Townsend.
“We need policy-makers to work with companies to ensure employees are not putting themselves and others in danger. But drivers themselves must also take responsibility.”
Liberal Democrat MP, Norman Lamb supports the campaign and believes employers can do more.
“We must make sure we work with employers to make sure access to employees is available from charities like Cambridge Weight Plan.”
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