On Friday, December 2,, 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a safety advisory calling for all passenger train engineers to be screened and treated for sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that can cause daytime drowsiness, concentration issues, memory problems, fatigue, and confusion.
CBS News reported that the safety advisory came after a deadly passenger train accident in Hoboken, New Jersey, injured dozens and killed a woman standing on a train platform on September 29.
The safety advisory urged all railroad to:
- Screen and treat all train engineers for sleep apnea.
- Install cameras train cabs to record engineers’ actions before and during crashes.
- Take steps to make certain that conductors follow speed limits, particularly in places where high speeds could harm passengers and those on platforms.
- Review passenger train speed data for violations and modify train control and signaling systems.
Many train companies already screen and test their engineers for sleep apnea. However, many believe more can be done to prevent these train accidents. For example, federal groups are currently considering official guidelines regarding sleep apnea screening as well as laws that would require train and track mechanisms that would prevent speeding altogether. These controls would identify and stop speeding trains before an accident occurred.
New Jersey Transit Accident Leads To Sleep Apnea Safety Advisory
The FRA safety advisory was issues shortly after the conductor of the recent New Jersey train crash suffered from severe, undiagnosed sleep apenea. The 48-year-old train engineer, Thomas Gallagher, reported to officials that he woke up the morning of the crash feeling rested, but then does not remember anything prior to the crash–only waking up on the floor of the train after the collision. A week after the accident, a doctor diagnosed him with severe sleep apnea.
The crash took place during the morning commute into New York City, when the train was approaching the Hoboken terminal. The train was going about 20 miles per hour, double the speed limit in that area.
A History Of Sleep Apnea Train Accidents
This is not the first time that a train conductor has been diagnosed with sleep apnea after a serious accident. In 2013, a Metro-North train derailed in the Bronx after speeding into a curve at 82 miles per hour. The engineer, who was later diagnosed with sleep apnea, had fallen asleep at the wheel.
Surgical Sleep Solutions
At Surgical Sleep Solutions, we are dedicated to helping spread awareness about sleep apnea and to helping those suffering from sleep apnea find the treatment that is most effective for their health and their life. We know that changing federal regulations will impact the transportation industry as well as its employees, and we are hopeful that the general safety of public transportation increases as the health of drivers and conductors improves.