Driving in Europe: the need of a common policy for drivers with obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome
Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSA) increases the risk of motor vehicle crashes, and of all medical disorders, has greatest risk in this respect. There is no consistency in the way OSA is considered by the national ‘Physical Fitness to Drive’ legislations within the 27 member countries of the European Union (EU), and most ignore OSA. This is further reflected by the absence of any reference to OSA in Annex III of the Directive 91/439/EEC, harmonizing Driving License regulations in the EU. A recent meeting brought together experts from several European and other countries, together with a representative of the European Commission. They discussed the best way to design and implement a uniform policy within Europe, for OSA and driving. It was agreed that: (i) other forms of pathological sleepiness be included, (ii) it covers both private and professional drivers, (iii) police accident report forms should explicitly consider sleepiness as a potential cause, (iv) sleep–wake education should be incorporated into the mandatory program of continuous education for professional drivers, ideally from 2010, (v) driver screening methods should contain questions on sleepiness at the wheel, habitual snoring and witnessed apneas during sleep, as well as the Epworth Sleepiness Score and Body Mass Index and (vi) following effective and efficient treatment, patients should be permitted to drive. In the light of medical, scientific and technical progress, EU procedures exist to enable the rapid modification of existing legislation. If such a procedure could be enacted for these aspects of driver sleepiness, then roads would be safer for 400 million people.