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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 20:54 
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Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2005 00:15
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Location: Windermere
I read this today, and thought it worthy of sharing - and perhaps you can share this with your local news forums too.
It is an issue that needs more exposure - the sort of thing that gets overlooked by many.

Cumbrian couple team up with driver of lorry that killed their son to back campaign

Nic and Monica Tweddell lost their son when he was just 25 years old. Toby died after a lorry being driven by a man with undiagnosed sleep apnoea ploughed into his car.
The tragic accident was devastating for those who knew and loved the former Ullswater Community College pupil. Yet, in what many would deem a remarkable act, his family are now backing a campaign along with Colin Wrighton, the man driving the lorry that killed their boy.

“You will understand that we think about Toby every day,” says Nic, 68. “It is almost five years since it happened, but that does not make any difference.
“When Toby was killed we were extremely angry with Colin Wrighton. It was a long time after the accident that we knew he had sleep apnoea.
“But perhaps most importantly of all, we then knew he had been to the doctor complaining he was tired.

“If he had not done anything about this tiredness, I would have regarded him as culpable.
“But the doctor failed to spot it. If I have any residual anger, it is with the doctor, not Colin Wrighton.”

The little-known condition is caused when a person's airways are obstructed during sleep depriving them of oxygen. They can stop breathing, sometimes hundreds of times, during the night. The body fights to draw breath, resulting in snoring and severely disturbed sleep.
As a result, sufferers believe they have had a full night's sleep. But are left exhausted and can suddenly fall asleep during the day. The majority of those affected are overweight and the fat around their necks hamper their breathing.
It is believed around six per cent of people over 45 suffer from sleep apnoea. And worryingly, most of these are completely unaware of it.

The Tweddells say the Government has not given sleep apnoea the prominence it so urgently requires.
Nic says: “I had never heard of it. When we found out that was the issue, we started to do our own research and discovered it was a significant problem.”

The family discovered that one in six truck drivers are thought to have obstructive sleep apnoea. The reason behind this is the high incidence of obesity due to their largely sedentary lifestyles, driving for long hours.

“People who have sleep apnoea fare worse in driving simulations than people who are drunk.”

Nic and Monica have written to the Government and met with ministers calling for haulage firms to be legally required to test their drivers for sleep apnoea. “We know of at least one company that does this, so it can be done,” says Nic, a retired structural engineer.

Although Nic believes the Government has so far been slow to act, possibly due to pressure from hauliers whose employees may be unwilling to take the tests.
The family also wants to see big changes to the application forms for group two driving licences. “We feel the medical report these drivers have to complete when they apply completely inadequate,” adds Nic.

Not a day goes by where Colin Wrighton does not think of the tragedy either. He was at the wheel of the lorry that smashed into the back of Toby's car on August 8, 2006.

Just over a year afterwards, a Liverpool crown court judge returned a not guilty verdict, clearing Colin of causing death by dangerous driving. The prosecution offered no evidence after it was confirmed Colin suffers from sleep apnoea.
Despite the judgement, Colin, now 57, remains haunted by the events.
“I think about Toby and his family every day,” he admits.

Colin's condition was diagnosed after the collision. Yet some time before that terrible day, Colin paid a visit to his GP because he was suffering from lethargy.

“I would pull into a lay-by for a cat nap, although lorry drivers do that when they have a few minutes spare,” he explains.
“But if I went walking or into the town, I would sit down and feel tired. It was like I had no energy.
“I went to the doctor and he said I might have been diabetic.”

The doctor ran tests for diabetes, high blood pressure and took blood tests. All of these showed up negative. “He said it must be the hours that I was working. He just put it down to that.”

On the day of the collision that killed Toby, Colin said he woke feeling normal, feeling refreshed. He checked his lorry, delivered his first load of the day, then drank coffee and ate some food.
He then set off on his next trip which took him onto the M62. “I didn't feel tired, I knew what was around me, what was overtaking me.”

The first thing Colin says alerted him to the collision was a loud bang. “I thought I must have just blacked out,” he says.
Colin’s 44-ton lorry had hit Toby's Nissan Micra near the Rocket interchange in Liverpool.

The 25-year-old web designer, who was on his way to work at the time, was freed from the wreckage but died in hospital from his injuries.
Colin was later taken to a specialist clinic where his sleeping patterns were monitored overnight.
“I stopped breathing 39 times an hour,” he reveals.
“They found out I had severe sleep apnoea.”

Colin now wears special apparatus as he sleeps, known as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. He says he is able to lead a normal life and still drives lorries for a living.

“When it first happened I gave up my driving licence voluntarily. I had a lot of counselling.”

He has joined a campaign with the British Lung Foundation (BLF) to raise awareness of sleep apnoea.
Although he has not formally met Mr and Mrs Tweddell, Colin has emailed and spoken with them over the telephone. “There may be a point where I can shake Mr Tweddell's hand. But I am grateful they have accepted this.

“I want to get the message out about sleep apnoea to as many people as possible.
“It's in memory of Toby.
“If something positive can come out of this, then his life will not have been in vain.”

Obstructive sleep apnoea affects six in every 100 people over the age of 45. But experts estimate only 50 per cent of GPs are even aware of the condition.

It is also estimated that more than 80 per cent of sufferers of obstructive sleep apnoea go undiagnosed.
There is no way of knowing how many times the condition has played a part in accidents on our roads.
The facts, the educated estimates and the speculations are chilling.

Deputy chairman of the BLF, Professor Stephen Spiro, worked at the University College Hospital London at its sleep clinic. He says the condition was first identified 20 years ago, but more research is desperately needed.
He too is campaigning to raise awareness and believes more people will suffer from sleep apnoea as obesity levels rise.

“It is very much related to body mass index and collar size,” he says. “Although some people get it because their jaw is recessed and their tongue is pushed further back.”

Obese children and those with enlarged tonsils or Down's Syndrome are also at risk of sleep apnoea too, although Professor Spiro says most of those affected are men in their 50s.

He adds that the condition can increase heart attack risks, strokes and high blood pressure – yet the Government currently views sleep apnoea as “low priority”.

The law states that HGV licence holders must stop driving when sleep apnoea is diagnosed. They can only drive again when a specialist confirms that the condition is diagnosed.

Private car licence holders must stop driving if daytime sleepiness is excessive. The DVLA must be informed, whatever type of licence the driver holds.
Professor Spiro adds: “If you look at coach crashes, at HGV crashes – these drivers are often overweight. You wonder if they have had this condition or not.”

Colin too is urging drivers who may rely upon their licences for their livelihoods not to ignore the signs of sleep apnoea.
“There will be a lot of people out there, lorry drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers. Don't be scared to come forward,”
“You can lead a normal life with treatment.”

For more information and a test to help potential sufferers see if they have the symptoms, visit Also visit The Tweddell's own awareness website can be found at Road safety charity Brake also have guidelines for fleet managers about sleep apnoea. For more information visit

Mods - feel free to duplicate this into the trucking forum.

“People who have sleep apnoea fare worse in driving simulations than people who are drunk.”

Time to take responsibility for our actions.. and don't be afraid of speaking out!

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