Feds: Mandating Sleep Apnea Screenings for All Train Operators

Federal officials now say that sleep apnea played a role in the Hoboken Terminal Crash that occurred on September 29, 2016, which caused the fatal death of a woman and injury to over a hundred people. It has been confirmed that Thomas Gallagher, 48, who was the operator of the train, has been diagnosed with sleep apnea. The crash occurred at the Hoboken Terminal, at double the speed limit of 10mph. Thomas Gallagher told investigators that he had no recollection of the crash and only remembered waking up on the floor of the train cab.

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a safety advisory that will urge railroads to screen and treat their engineers for Sleep Apnea. Those that are diagnosed with Sleep Apnea will not be able to operate a train until they are treated. They have also suggested installing inward facing cameras in train cabs to record and monitor the engineers actions and speed (especially in stations where the tracks end at a platform). This will help aid in any future investigations. The federal agency first recognized that Sleep Apnea was problem in 2004, when it began revising and outlining safety regulations for operating a train. Currently, engineers only have their vision and hearing tested every three years, as of a physical screening required by their job.

Amtrak, Metro North, and some freight railroads have already implemented screenings and treatment for Sleep Apnea. An interesting statistic- According to spokesman Aaron Donovan for Metro-North (a commuter railroad in New York City suburbs) a recent study found that 1 out of 9 of its engineers has Sleep Apnea. Metro North also had a deadly Sleep Apnea related crash in 2013, killing four people.

So what exactly is Sleep Apnea? Sleep apnea is chronic condition that causes one or more pauses in your breathing disrupting your sleep. Many people with Sleep Apnea suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue, increasing their risk of an accident. Sleep Apnea can also increase the risk of recurrent Heart Attacks and abnormal heart beats as a result of low blood oxygen. It has also been related to other medical conditions such as Stroke, Diabetes, Depression, ADHD, and weight gain.

Some Sleep Apnea symptoms to we aware of:

  • Morning headaches

  • Sore throat or dry mouth

  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)

  • Attention problems

  • Irritability

  • Snoring loud enough to disturb the sleep of others or yourself

  • Shortness of breath, gasping for air or choking that awakens you from sleep

  • Excessive daytime drowsiness, which may cause you to fall asleep while you’re working, watching television or even driving

As of now, the Long Island Railroad is in the process putting into effect sleep apnea screenings as part of their safety protocols. We are pleased that the Federal Railroad Administration is recognizing the dangers of untreated Sleep Apnea. If you have or know someone who displays any of the Sleep Apnea Symptoms that are mentioned above, please call our office to schedule a complimentary Airway Evaluation. Sleep Apnea can be easily treated with a custom made oral appliance, fitting much like a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. It supports the jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway. Also, it is many times a benefit that is covered by your medical insurance. At Raphaelson Dental Sleep Center, we are concerned about our patients health and safety and we are looking forward to helping you achieve a restful sleep.

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