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Sleep apnea testing now a priority after numerous train accidents

Many New York accidents are caused by sleep deprived drivers. While car accidents are typically the focus, a recent onslaught of train accidents has got the attention of New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as New Jersey Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker. The Senators released a letter to the National Transportation Safety Board requesting regulatory changes to reduce the number of accidents related to sleep deprivation.

These changes will include increased safety reviews, as well as inward facing cameras on Metropolitan Transit Authority and NJ TRANSIT trains. There is also a request for sleep apnea testing and comprehensive fatigue risk management programs.

A couple of the train derailments that have occurred recently were caused by train engineers' sleep apnea. The most recent one occurred earlier this year when a Long Island Rail Road train crashed into a bumping block at the end of a track, injuring over 100 people. The NTSB investigation revealed that the engineer had no recollection of the impact. The investigation later showed that he had undiagnosed sleep apnea.

New sleep apnea guidelines have been released by the federal government, but not much progress has been made in terms of implementation. However, the NJ TRANSIT has reported that they will not allow engineers with symptoms of sleep apnea to operate the trains unless they get properly diagnosed and treated. The Long Island Rail Road is also in favor of sleep apnea testing and will work to expand it. In any case, preventing car and train accidents related to sleep apnea is now a priority for the state of New York.

Source: CBS New York, "'No Excuses:' Schumer calls For NTSB Safety Review, Sleep Apnea Testing Following LIRR Crash," Jan. 8, 2017

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