LEGAL COLUMN: Prioritising your health

By: Sarah Marinovic


For safety’s sake, maintaining good physical and mental health must be on every driver’s checklist

LEGAL COLUMN: Prioritising your health
Is your health a priority?

 

This month I want to encourage drivers to take a moment to look after themselves.

Driving is not an easy profession. The hours are long and the pressure is high. Tight timeframes on slim profit margins exist against the backdrop of heavy regulation. 

For many in our industry the job means weeks away from home. It’s only natural when you come back to want to be there for your family.

It’s no wonder that for many drivers their own health falls onto the backburner. That niggling health concern just doesn’t make it to the top of the list, and the doctor’s appointment you meant to book gets pushed back.

I know it’s easier said than done. I’m guilty of doing it myself.

But a recent case in Canberra drives home how much higher the stakes are for professional drivers. Ignoring your health concerns can turn what would otherwise be an accident into a criminal offence.

When an accident is not an accident

In May this year the Canberra Supreme Court sentenced truck driver, Akis Livas, to three years and three months in gaol for culpable driving causing death.

Mr Akis pleaded guilty to the offence after the truck he was driving collided with a stationary car. Tragically a four year-old boy was killed in the collision.

Mr Akis had blacked out behind the wheel.

In normal circumstances an unexpected medical event, like a blackout, can mean that an accident, while tragic, is not a criminal offence.

But things were different in Mr Akis’ case because he was aware that he had sleep apnoea and had been referred for testing by his doctors. He didn’t get those tests done and kept driving. 

By continuing to drive when he was aware that he might have a medical condition that could impact his driving, Mr Akis was committing a serious offence.

How to look after yourself

None of us want to find ourselves in Mr Akis’ position. The drivers I know want to do a good job and go home to their families. And importantly, they don’t want to be the cause of pain to another family. 

With hindsight, it’s clear that Mr Akis should not have been driving. But I’m sure there are many of us who, if we were being completely honest, would admit to being overdue for a check-up.

The only way to keep yourself safe, both physically and legally, is to prioritise your health. Make sure you get checked out as soon as you notice a problem and follow your doctor's directions. It's time consuming and it's a pain but even if it doesn't mean avoiding a life-altering accident, looking after yourself may well keep you feeling well and able to participate in this great industry for longer – and who wouldn't want that?

 

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