Federal regulators are urging railroads across the country to test train operators for obstructive sleep apnea after the engineer in September’s deadly New Jersey commuter train crash was found to have the fatigue-inducing disorder.
The Federal Railroad Administration will issue a safety advisory this week stressing the importance of sleep apnea screening and treatment, Administrator Sarah Feinberg told The Associated Press. One railroad that already tests its engineers, Metro-North in the New York City suburbs, found that 1 in 9 suffers from sleep apnea.
The advisory, akin to a strong recommendation, is a stopgap measure while regulators draft rules that would require all railroads to screen engineers for sleep apnea. That process could take years, and Feinberg said railroads shouldn’t wait for the government to force action.
“At this point, it’s unacceptable to wait any longer,” Feinberg said.
Sleep apnea patients are repeatedly awakened and robbed of rest as their airway closes and their breathing stops, leading to dangerous daytime drowsiness.
“You end up with an engineer who is so fatigued they’re dosing off, they’re falling asleep in these micro bursts and they often have no memory of it, and they’re operating a locomotive at the time, so they’re putting hundreds of people in danger,” Feinberg said.
To read more, click here: After Train Crash, Transit Regulators Targeting Sleep Apnea – ABC News