U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Cory Booker have announced new legislation that would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to test train operators and commercial vehicle operators for sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, an issue that has been long ignored at the federal level until recently when deadly train accidents occurred in Hoboken and Brooklyn. Senator Schumer said the Trump administration has backed off a new mandatory testing rule, a move that is “dangerous and ill-advised.” Schumer and Booker announced that they plan to introduce a new bill that would make sleep apnea testing the law of the land.
Senator Booker, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate subcommittee overseeing rail infrastructure, said the findings released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding the Hoboken and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train accidents underscore the importance of sleep apnea testing for train operators as well as commercial truck drivers. The engineers of the two commuter trains that had slammed into New York City-area stations in the last year were both suffering from severe sleep apnea and had no memory of the crashes, federal investigators said.
Understanding Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea affects the duration and quality of your sleep and therefore, affects your daytime alertness and performance. When sleep apnea is left untreated, it may become very difficult for you to stay awake, focus your eyes and have quick reactions while driving or operating machinery. Studies show that people with sleep apnea are at an increased risk of being involved in a fatigue-related crash. Symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, morning headaches, nausea, choking while sleeping, excessive daytime drowsiness, irritability, depression, issues with concentration and memory and disturbed sleep. People with the disorder are repeatedly awakened and don’t have an opportunity to rest as their airway closes and their breathing stops, which leads to dangerous daytime drowsiness.
Sleep Apnea and Recent Train Crashes
NTSB said the common circumstances of the Sept. 29, 2016 New Jersey Transit crash in Hoboken, and the Jan. 4, 2017 LIRR crash in Brooklyn warranted combining the findings and recommendations into a single investigative report. This report is to be released next year. Neither of the two engineers involved in those train crashes had been diagnosed with sleep apnea prior to the incidents, the NTSB documents stated.
The crash at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal injured 103 people while the Hoboken terminal crash killed one woman and injured 114. There have been a number of other incidents including a May 2008 derailment of an Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) train in Newton, Mass. that has been partially linked to sleep apnea. For more than a decade the NTSB has recommended that railroads test and treat vehicle operators for sleep disorders. After a 2013 Metro-North derailment in the Bronx that killed four people, the Metropolitan Transit Authority began to develop a pilot project to screen and treat engineers for sleep disorders.
That program was later expanded to include the LIRR engineers. Also, following a 2008 accident on the Boston subway, the New York City Transit system began screening and treating subway train operators for sleep apnea. In 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began to move forward with a rulemaking process that would have forged a path for sleep apnea testing across the board. But this is the process that has been withdrawn under the Trump administration.
Identifying drivers with sleep apnea and treating them would not only help prevent catastrophic train accidents, the kind we’ve seen in New York and surrounding areas recently, but also help take fatigued truck drivers off the roadway. Drowsy driving is a major factor in deadly truck accidents nationwide. As personal injury lawyers who represent victims of train accidents and truck accidents, we hope Senators Schumer and Booker are successful in getting this important law passed. We believe it will save numerous lives and is crucial for the safety of commuters nationwide.
If You Have Been Injured
If you or a loved one has been injured in a train accident or if you have lost a loved one in a train crash, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. Our skilled accident attorneys have a proven track record of helping injured victims get fair compensation for their losses. In one of our train accident cases, our client was awarded a $3,222,000 verdict.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
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