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February 13, 2018

Following train crashes, Cory Booker, Chuck Schumer call for mandatory sleep apnea testing

During Obama administration steps had been taken to implement safety measures. Those were reversed by President Donald Trump

Sleep Apnea Politics
PATCO Train Collingswood Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

A train pulls away from the Collingswood, N.J., PATCO train station.

In the wake of two violent train crashes, both within months of each other and thought to be caused by sleep apnea, officials are calling for the U.S. Department of Transportation to enforce testing on all railroad engineers.

The first crash occurred in on the New Jersey Transit in September 2016, when a train failed to stop at a Hoboken station and struck a wall, killing one woman and injuring more than 100. During a second crash, just a few months later in 2017, a Long Island Rail Road train crashed into room at the end of the track at Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal Station, injuring 108 and racking up $5.3 million in damages.

Following a federal investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, engineers of both trains were found to struggle with sleep apnea, thus contributing to the crashes.

Sleep apnea is a somewhat common sleeping disorder that appears more regularly in men and is highly related to age and obesity. Sleep apnea disrupts airflow during sleep, which can lead to excessive fatigue during the daytime and a significant reduction of motor skills.

During the Obama Administration, the federal DOT put steps in place toward mandating train operators, as well as truck or bus drivers, to be screened for the sleeping disorder – steps which have since been reversed by the Trump administration. In August President Donald Trump said individual railroads could decide how to deal with sleep disorder testing individually, largely as a way to reduce regulation that some argued could limit economic growth.

In light of this verdict, New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez spoke publicly on mandating sleep apnea testing.

“We are seeing time and time again where sleep apnea is causing major injury and death,” Booker said.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer further called out the Trump Administration over the subject.

“The nonpartisan, expert-led NTSB, whose mission it is to advance transportation safety, just sounded an alarm that should be deafening to the federal DOT when it comes to their inexcusable decision to halt a national sleep apnea screening standard from being implemented,” Schumer said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. 

“The Trump administration is asleep at the switch if they do not heed the latest NTSB recommendation to reinstate this common sense sleep apnea rule.”