Last year's deadly train accident in New York may lead to further testing for all conductors. The deadly derailment of the Metro North train was caused by the driver's inattention, according to investigators. The driver reported being in a "daze" and unable to fully comprehend what was going on at the time. Investigators later discovered that the driver, who survived the crash, suffers from sleep apnea, a condition in which the natural sleep cycle is disrupted by the victim's failure to breath regularly. This causes a "sleep debt" which results in drowsiness, inability to stay awake, and even states of semi-unconscious called microsleeps.
How bad can this condition be? The driver responsible for the deadly derailment in December "woke up" 65 times per hour without even knowing it--resulting in extreme sleep deprivation.
Dr. Gregory Belenky, director of the sleep and performance research center at Washington State University told the Associated Press that people with sleep apnea "fall asleep at stoplights, they fall asleep at meetings during the day. They'll deny any sleepiness and nod off right in front of you."
Union officials are currently testing all train operators in New York City's northern suburbs to determine how many suffer from the same condition and how much it affects their ability to safely maneuver trains in heavily populated areas. This program is in its fledgling stages but already proponents are talking about expanding the testing to cover all train operators within New York City limits as well. James Stem, a lobbyist with the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and transport Workers says "fatigue is the number one safety issue in the industry today." Expanding the testing could potentially avoid any number train accidents in New York City. Just last year there were nearly 100 fatal subway accidents in New York City alone.
If you or a member of your family has been injured due to the negligence of a subway train operator or conductor, call the Law Offices of Nussin S. Fogel for a free consultation at (800) 734-9338 or (212) 385-1122 to learn your rights.