Is Fatigue Causing Train Accidents in the United States?

Photo of train derailment

Photo of train derailmentIn September 2015, two Union Pacific Railroad trains collided near Texarkana. The collision occurred at a diamond crossing of two subdivisions. Two of the striking train’s locomotives derailed and seven cars on the struck train derailed. Around 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel were spilled. Shockingly, only two people suffered injuries, both crewmembers of the striking train.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the accident likely happened because the westbound train’s crew members failed to respond to signals that required them to slow and stop the train before reaching the interlocking. The crew members were unable to provide detailed recollections of the moments leading up to the accident. The NTSB postulates that both crew members on the striking train fell asleep operating the train.

Positive train control, a new safety system for trains, could probably have prevented the accident.

Fatigue in the Rail Industry

The demands of the rail industry can easily lead to fatigue for conductors, engineers and other crew. Grueling work schedules, poor sleep management and inadequate support from employers are major factors that can lead to fatigue.

As drowsiness increases, the risk of a train accident rises. And sadly, these crashes can lead to exorbitant costs as well as mass injury or loss of life.

Fatigue can also be the result of sleep apnea, a condition that affects many in the trucking and rail industries. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes people to stop breathing several times throughout the night, reducing sleep’s restfulness and leading to fatigue in waking life. Sleep apnea was recently implicated as a cause of two major train accidents in New York City-area stations last year that killed one person and injured hundreds.

If you have been injured in a train accident, discuss your case with a personal injury attorney.


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