Today my sister and brother in law issued a media release stemming from last month's Inquest into the death of their son Toby. Regular readers of Fortnightly Mailing may remember from a long post I wrote in October 2007 that my 25 year old nephew was killed 2 years ago on his way to work in Liverpool. His car was waiting in a morning rush hour queue on the M62 motorway approaching the Rocket Interchange. The queue was hit from behind by a heavy goods vehicle and Toby’s car was crushed. The driver of the HGV had fallen asleep at the wheel, and was later diagnosed to be suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA). When we investigated OSA we found serious weaknesses in the way that the condition is controlled by Government, by the road haulage industry, and by General Practitioners.
Following the Inquest, the Coroner issued a Rule 43 Report to the Lord Chancellor, calling for major changes in the way that sleep apnoea amongst lorry drivers is dealt with. The media release [137 kB PDF] provides full details, and includes the Rule 43 Report itself, as well as the bulk of a fascinating and comprehensive report to the Inquest by Dr Dev Banerjee, who is Consultant Respiratory and Sleep Physician at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.
The Coroner's Rule 43 Report calls for the following:
- regular medical screening for all lorry drivers;
- amendment of the DVLA Medical Examination Report form to improve identification of undiagnosed sufferers from OSA;
- fast track medical assessment of commercial drivers involved in road traffic collisions;
- better education of all drivers on the dangers of tiredness when driving, in the same manner as drink-driving campaigns;
- better education of commercial drivers to make them aware that a diagnosis of OSA is almost certainly not the end of their livelihood as a driver.
Under new rules that came into force on 17 July, the Lord Chancellor is required to respond to a Coroner’s Rule 43 Report within 56 days.