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U.S. safety board blames two commuter crashes on sleep disorders

From Reuters - February 6, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. investigative agency said on Tuesday that two New York City area commuter train crashes were the result of engineers with undiagnosed sleep disorders.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) criticized the lack of safety systems in both crashes that could have prevented the incidents.

The board said two recent crashes had almost identical probable causes. A New Jersey Transit train crashed in a terminal in Hoboken, New Jersey, in September 2016, killing one person and injuring 110. In January, a Long Island Rail Road train crashed at the Atlantic Terminal in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, injuring 108 people.

Both engineers suffered from sleep apnea, which is characterized by shallow or interrupted breathing during sleep and can leave sufferers fatigued.

The trains were speeding and overran the tracks. The NTSB said New Jersey Transit failed to follow internal guidance and refer at-risk safety sensitive personnel for sleep disorder screening.

The Obama administration had been considering requiring truck drivers and railroad engineers to be screened for sleep apnea, but the Trump administration scrapped the effort in August. The NTSB said that decision jeopardizes public safety.

The NTSB has called for years for stricter screening of drivers and engineers for sleep apnea, citing numerous crashes blamed on the disorder.

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