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Study compares truck driver health with accident rates

Living a healthy lifestyle can be challenging for truck drivers in North Carolina and around the country. Operating a commercial vehicle is a relatively sedentary occupation, and the menus of roadside dining establishments do not always feature a wide variety of healthy choices. A report published by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2014 suggests that obesity, smoking and diabetes rates are twice as high among long-haul commercial truck drivers, and a research team from the University of Utah School of Medicine indicates that drivers in poor health are involved in significantly more accidents.

The University of Utah study, which can be found in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, is based on the driving records and medical histories of 49,464 commercial vehicle drivers. The research team compiled a list of conditions that could impact an individual's ability to operate a semi-tractor trailer safely, and they found that drivers who suffered from three or more of these dangerous medical conditions were involved in accidents more than three times as often as healthy drivers.

Truck drivers as a whole crash about 29 times for each 100,000 miles they cover, but drivers with a combination of conditions like diabetes, lower back pain and obesity are involved in 93 accidents every 100,000 miles according to the research. The lead author of the study says that medical professional should be more aware of the impact that a combination of health factors can have on road safety when diagnosing and treating truck drivers.

While commercial truck accident lawsuits are often filed against the drivers involved, experienced personal injury attorneys may also pursue civil remedies against trucking companies when they have failed to protect the public from foreseeable harm. Attorneys could argue that truck owners who allowed drivers with known serious medical conditions to get behind the wheel violated this duty of care.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, "National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury", Office of Research and Information Technology, Jan. 14, 2014

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