Newly Proposed Legislation Would Protect Us from Drivers and Operators with Sleep Apnea

Newly Proposed Legislation Would Protect Us from Drivers and Operators with Sleep ApneaLast September a commuter train crashed into a wall at the Hoboken, NJ train station during the morning rush, killing one and injuring more than 100 people, because the train’s conductor had undiagnosed sleep apnea. An article in EHS Today estimates that one in 25 adult drivers over age 18 have reported falling asleep while driving in the previous 30 days. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 100,000 fatigue-related crashes occur each year, many of which involve professional drivers in heavy commercial vehicles. An average of 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary damages each year occur because of fatigue-related accidents.

As the anniversary for the Hoboken crash approached this fall, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced legislation which would protect commuters, rail operators, and commercial truck drivers form the dangers of sleep apnea. The legislation would require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to implement the rule that would require sleep apnea testing and treatment for rail operators and commercial truck drivers which was reversed by the Trump administration.

In August, the Trump administration announced that it was withdrawing the proposed requirement to require train operators and truck drivers to be screened for sleep apnea as a part of its comprehensive effort to eliminate regulations that might limit economic growth according to The Atlantic.

What is sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is a medical condition which causes a person’s breathing to stop and start while they are sleeping. The interruptions in a person’s sleep can keep them from getting a good night’s sleep, which can make them exhausted and drowsy during the day and cause them to fall asleep while engaged in other activities during the day.

The lawmakers’ announcement of the proposed legislation came at a time when the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation of the Hoboken crash confirmed that the train’s engineer had received a medical examination two months prior to the crash, but was not tested for sleep apnea. The lawmakers who introduced the sleep apnea legislation sent a letter to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao requesting a copy of the data that the DOT used to make the decision to withdraw the sleep apnea rule along with the DOT’s plan to identify and treat truck drivers and train operators who are suffering from OSA.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that commercial drivers who drive a high number of miles and who drive at night, and people with untreated sleep disorders such as OSA are up to seven times more likely to have a drowsy driving crash.

Those who have sustained an injury or lost a loved one in a truck accident caused by a drowsy driver may be able to take legal action to recover compensation for their injuries resulting from the truck driver’s negligent actions.

If you have been injured in a truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation. You are invited to call the experienced South Carolina truck accident attorneys at McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC today at 803-327-7800 or complete our contact form today for a free consultation.