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The dangers of driving with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) – otherwise known as sleep apnoea – is a health condition that affects breathing during sleep.

It occurs when tissues and muscles in the throat collapse as they relax, narrowing the airwaves and disrupting your regular breathing pattern. This causes the body to briefly awaken to restore normal breathing and may prevent you from having a good night’s rest.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome (OSAS) is a more severe form of the condition, causing severe fatigue during the day. Because the pauses in breathing can happen several times a night, you are unable to achieve the kind of restorative sleep needed to function normally in most daily tasks, especially driving.

Driving requires full concentration and high levels of energy. Without a proper night’s sleep, you increase your chances of falling asleep at the wheel. You may not be alert enough to anticipate or appropriately react to certain hazards and generally, you are more likely to cause road traffic accidents.

As with other medical conditions that can affect driving ability, if symptoms of your sleep apnoea or OSAS are affecting your ability to drive safely, you must inform the DVLA.

You could face a fine of up to £1,000 if you do not make the DVLA aware of a medical condition affecting your driving ability, and if the condition causes you to become involved in an accident, you could be prosecuted.

Specifically, tiredness causing a road traffic accident that results in death can see the driver charged with death by careless or dangerous driving, evidence permitting. This is why it is important to let the DVLA know if you are aware that your sleep apnoea or OSAS is affecting your ability to drive safely and at the same standard as a competent driver.

Whilst voluntarily surrendering your licence to the DVLA can help you to get back on the road more quickly, there is also the chance that your licence is revoked even if you feel it shouldn’t have been. This leaves many people feeling lost and under-represented.

Sleep apnoea and OSAS are treatable conditions.  It is highly recommended you seek medical advice not only to restore healthy sleeping habits, but also because untreated OSAS carries with it many other complications, such as an increased risk of higher blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

At TLW, we advise you to contact our experienced motoring solicitors to discover your options.