Brake and Direct Line Insurance have awarded Meg Munn, MP for Sheffield Heeley, ‘Parliamentarian of the Year – National Campaigner’ for her determination to eradicate undiagnosed sleep apnoea in commercial drivers, a major cause of road crashes, and achievement of real results to improve the safety of UK road users.
Due to lifestyle and working conditions, truck drivers are much more susceptible to sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea sufferers are often tired during the day and are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel, lose control of their vehicle and crash. Sleep-related crashes often result in death or serious injury, as they tend to occur at high speeds, with the driver is unable to take any preventative action, such as braking, before the collision. Undiagnosed sleep apnoea may affect nearly one in six lorry drivers  and sleep apnoea suffers are seven times more likely to crash . Up to 80,000 HGV drivers in the UK may be putting their own lives and the lives of others at risk by driving while suffering from the effects of sleep apnoea .
Meg first came across the issue when constituent Seb Schmoller contacted her, in early 2008, following the death of his nephew Toby Tweddell. Toby, 25, was killed on 8 August 2006 when a lorry ploughed into his car. The driver, Colin Wrighton, had fallen asleep at the wheel of his lorry. Following the crash, it was found that the medical profession had previously failed to diagnose him with sleep apnoea, an easily treatable disorder. Meg quickly realised that action needed to be taken at a national level.
Meg raised the subject in a Parliamentary debate, convincingly arguing that there was an urgent need for a change in regulation. She then secured a meeting with the Road Safety Minister in October 2009. Thanks to Meg’s thorough research and careful planning, the Minister was convinced of the need to act and committed to make changes to the medical examination form that commercial drivers must complete with their doctors before they can get their licence, to include checks for the symptoms of sleep apnoea. The Minister also promised to raise awareness of the issue among the medical profession. It is hoped that these steps will make a real impact on the detection of sleep apnoea in commercial drivers.
In 2010 Meg will continue to tackle the issue by working with business to raise awareness and encourage regular screening for commercial drivers. She is already in the process of organising a trial with a major firm to begin screening and offering treatment to their drivers. She hopes this will demonstrate the value of screening to other employers, and bring about widespread screening as an industry standard.
The awards were presented at Brake’s annual reception at the Houses of Parliament on the evening of Tuesday 19 January 2010.
Cathy Keeler, deputy chief executive of Brake, said: “Meg’s substantial efforts to raise awareness of the problems of undiagnosed sleep apnoea in commercial drivers will prevent many more lives being needlessly lost, and many more families being devastated. Brake is delighted to award Meg ‘Parliamentarian of the Year – National Campaigner’ for her tireless national campaigning in Parliament and with Government. I urge everyone to support Meg in her excellent work and look forward to hearing how her campaign develops in 2010 through her work to encourage businesses to screen their drivers for sleep apnoea and offer treatment where necessary.”
Meg Munn MP said: “I am delighted to receive the award. Toby Tweddell was killed by a lorry driver with undiagnosed Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. His uncle, my constituent, Seb Schmoller; Toby’s fiancée Jenny Crisp; and other members of Toby’s family have undertaken substantial work to raise awareness and change policy. This award is a tribute to their determination to prevent other families suffering the same heartache.”
Steve Treloar, Managing Director of Motor at Direct Line Insurance said: “As the UK’s number one direct car insurer we have a very real interest in ensuring that road safety issues remain part of the public and political agenda and real action is taken at a local and national level to avoid the tragedies that are still too common on our roads. We are proud to sponsor these awards and would like to congratulate Meg who has tirelessly campaigned to make a difference.”
Members of the public can nominate their MP for a Brake award by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also visit the Brake website (www.brake.org.uk) to find out about how to support Brake’s work with families that have been affected by a road crash by helping to raise vital funds for Brake. You could take part in a parachute jump, organise a coffee morning or take part in a sponsored walk. To find out about these and other fundraising ideas, call Lisa Kendall on 01484 683294 or email email@example.com
Photos of Meg receiving her award are available from Brake.
Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.
Direct Line is part of RBS Insurance, the second largest general insurer in the UK1 and is wholly owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com Direct Line Insurance plc is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Registered office: 3 Edridge Road, Croydon, Surrey CR9 1AG. Registered in England and Wales no. 01810801. The Financial Services Authority’s Register can be accessed through http://www.fsa.gov.uk
: Howard, Mark E., Desai, Anup V., Grunstein, Ronald R., Hukins, Craig, Armstrong, John G., Joffe, David, Swann, Philip, Campbell, Donald A. and Pierce, Robert J. ‘Sleepiness, Sleep-disordered Breathing, and Accident Risk Factors in Commercial Vehicle Drivers’, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2004: 170, pp. 1014-21
: Sleep Apnoea Trust, Website: www.sleep-apnoea-trust.org
: Based on DfT figures showing there are approximately 500,000 active HGV drivers in the UK