Traffic accidents
Traffic accidents

Sleep-related traffic and occupational accidents

According to published research, obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) sufferers have a significantly increased risk of motor vehicle accidents (from four to six times).1,2,3

It's estimated that each year in the USA there are 310,000 sleep apnoea-related collisions causing:

  • 1,400 fatalities4
  • $15.9 billion in collision costs4

What's more, the risks of driving when sleepy can be as dangerous as when driving under the influence of alcohol.5,6

Some studies have shown that OSA sufferers are more dangerous than drunk drivers.7 However, the increased risk of collisions due to OSA is reduced when patients are treated with CPAP.8,9

OSA is known to impair attention and vigilance, long-term visual and verbal memory, construction and special ability, and impact on executive function, which has the potential to result in serious production losses including premature workforce separation, high rates of absenteeism, lower productivity, difficultly concentrating and performing monotonous tasks, as well as higher rates of workplace accidents10,11. In fact, OSA sufferers have twice the risk of workplace accidents.12


  1. Young T, Blustein J, Finn L, Palta M. Sleep-disordered breathing and motor vehicle accidents in a population-based sample of employed adults. Sleep 1997;20(8):608-13.
  2. Teran-Santos J, Jimenez-Gomez A, Cordero-Guevara J.The association between sleep apnea and the risk of traffic accidents. N Engl J Med 1999;340(11);847-51.
  3. Horstmann S, Hess CW, Bassetti C, Gugger M, Mathis J. Sleepiness-related accidents in sleep apnea patients. Sleep 2000;23;383-89.
  4. Sassani A, Findley LJ, Kryger M, Goldlust E, George C, Davidson TM.Reducing motor-vehicle collisions, costs, and fatalities by treating obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Sleep 2004;27(3):453-8.
  5. Powell NB, Schechtman KB, Riley RW, Li K, Troell R, Guilleminault C.The road to danger: the comparative risks of driving while sleepy. Laryngoscope 2001;111(5):887-93.
  6. Hack MA, Choi SJ, Vijayapalan P, Davies RJ, Stradling JR.Comparison of the effects of sleep deprivation, alcohol and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) on simulated steering performance. Respir Med 2001;95(7):594-601.
  7. George CF, Boudreau AC, Smiley A. Simulated driving performance in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1996;154(1):175-81
  8. George CF.Reduction in motor vehicle collisions following treatment of sleep apnoea with nasal CPAP. Thorax 2001;56(7):508-12.
  9. Findley L, Smith C, Hooper J, Dineen M, Suratt PM.Treatment with nasal CPAP decreases automobile accidents in patients with sleep apnea. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2000;161: 857-9.
  10. Bucks, R.S., M. Olaithe, and P. Eastwood, Neurocognitive function in obstructive sleep apnoea: a meta-review. Respirology, 2013. 18(1): p. 61-70.
  11. Accattoli, M.P., et al., [Occupational accidents, work performance and obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS)]. G Ital Med Lav Ergon, 2008. 30(3): p. 297-303.
  12. Ulfberg J, Carter N, Edling C.Sleep-disordered breathing and occupational accidents. Scand J Work Environ Health 2000;26(3):237-42.