On May 20, 2021, in Augusta, three people’s lives, including that of a 1-year-old infant, were extinguished by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel. It was later determined that this driver had undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). I would like to recommend a policy which seeks to promote awareness of the seriousness of OSA, and to end OSA driving-related deaths. I would like to see it titled “brAvE,” in honor of the three people (Barbara Hendsbee, Rosalyn (Rose) Jean, and Vada-Leigh Peaslee) who perished unnecessarily as a result of this commonly ignored medical condition

OSA is an increasingly common chronic sleep disorder which involves symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness associated with motor vehicle impairment, including injuries and fatalities.

Incidents of motor vehicle accidents due to OSA are decreased by 70% through use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy at least four hours per night.

Driver’s licenses in Maine are not affected by OSA unless a medical condition has been determined.

I would like to appeal to the state of Maine to incorporate testing for OSA into annual medical exams, and to make CPAP equipment and usage fully covered by health insurance. Maine has an opportunity to lead the way in responding to an issue which is prevalent across the nation and the world.

An easy implementation might include adding a questionnaire to a patient’s annual medical exam paperwork, to help doctors to identify and assist patients with undiagnosed OSA. Just like questions around intimate partner violence (“Do you feel safe at home?”) are now commonplace, asking questions about how a person is sleeping could be the first important step in saving lives; not only for those with OSA, but others as well.


Cynthia Cushing


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