Dozing Drivers Targeted in New Program

A California company launches a special program\r\nto encourage physicians to include sleep disorder reviews in their annual patient physicals.

You''re driving home. It''s late at night and it''s been a long day. Despite enough caffeine to keep an elephant awake, a blaring radio and a tsunami of fresh air rolling through the car, you start to nod off. Sound familiar?

Most of us have experienced similar car rides. But is it just fatigue, or something more serious?

One California company, SleepQuest, has launched a special program to encourage physicians to include sleep disorder reviews in their annual patient physicals.

"The National Sleep Foundation issued a 2001 survey report identifying that one-half of all American adults - particularly young males - have doze-off driving incidents. The report states that one in five actually fall asleep behind the wheel and that drowsy driving is responsible for 100,000 automobile crashes, 40,000 injuries and 1,500 fatalities a year," reveals Robert Koenigsberg, president of SleepQuest, Redwood City, Calif.

The company started an advertising/direct mail campaign in January that offers physicians a package of sleep disorder diagnostic information that can be used in a two- to three-minute checkup during annual physicals. According to SleepQuest, the most serious sleep disorder is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which can be a major contributor to strokes, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, serious heart conditions and impaired performance while driving or at work.

Another National Sleep Foundation survey found that less than 10 percent of primary care doctors ask their patients about sleep disorders or heaving snoring, which is the most common indication of OSA. So, suggests Koenigsberg, encourage your employees, especially those who must operate vehicles as part of their job duties, to ask their doctors about sleep disorders.

"By encouraging our state''s physicians to address this serious public safety issue, we hope to help save drivers'' lives lost due to sleep disorders," says Koenigsberg.

The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 43 percent of all work-related fatalities involve motor vehicles. According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance''s Detailed Claim Information, the most costly lost-time workers'' compensation claims are for those resulting from motor-vehicle accidents. These injuries averaged nearly $22,200 per workers'' compensation claim filed in 1998 and 1999.

For more information, visit the company''s Web site at www.sleepquest.com.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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