Streams

Two Million Americans "Nod" Behind the Wheel Every Week

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Crews repairing tracks in the Bronx on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013,  at the site of Sunday's Metro-North fatal train derailment. Crews repairing tracks in the Bronx on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, at the site of Sunday's Metro-North fatal train derailment. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Was highway hypnosis behind Sunday's deadly derailment of a MetroNorth commuter train?

That's the explanation being given by the attorney for the engineer, William Rockefeller, who was operating the train. He says Rockefeller experienced "a nod" just before the speeding train hurtled off the rails at a sharp turn in the Bronx.

Dr. Charles Czeisler, a sleep researcher at Harvard's Division of Sleep medicine, explained in this interview that that's a frequent event.

"It's very common for people in this kind of occupation, in the transportation industry, to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, where they don't get the restorative sleep that they need when they are in bed, and might be waking up dozens if not hundreds of times per night," he said.

He believes fatigue management programs need to be implemented, especially in industries like transportation.

Czeisler also said 2 million Americans admit to falling asleep behind the wheel every week.

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Comments [4]

TOM from Brooklyn

Nod off each week(and probably every week--same 2 million)and live to take surveys about it by clowns like you. Wish they would nod off while doing the survey.

Dec. 05 2013 01:26 PM
Susanne Atkins from Fairfield,CT

Dr. Csleiser does not seem to be aware that there is a program in place for drivers of all commercial vehicles and trucks. They fall under the jurisdiction of the DOT. As a Certified medical Examiner. regularly examine such drivers and approve them, or not, based on my medical exam. The CDL (Certified Driver License card is them given to them and lasts for a period up to two years, depending on the judgment of the CME. They have to pass certain requirments of vision and hearing and must be deemed fit to drive a truck, school bus, or other commercial vehicle. They are screened for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders and must be under the care of a sleep specialist if necessary. If you want more information, you can go to the DOT or NRCME website. Also, all such licenses are not registered with the NRCME.

Dec. 05 2013 10:02 AM
JW from NYC

Just because "nodding off" is common behind the wheel doesn't mean that it's OK! I feel like by saying this happens a lot there's an assumption that it's OK. It's NOT OK! It's REALLY unsafe!

If the MTA knows that this a common occurrence, they should probably put 2 drivers in the train 1) to keep each other awake and 2) as a fail-safe.

Dec. 05 2013 09:58 AM
Mark F from NYC

I feel it for the driver of the train, & those who died in the accident. I agree that nodding off behind the wheel is common, & most drivers (trains, trucks, or ships) are not quite aware of how tired they can become during a driving period.

Dec. 05 2013 08:29 AM

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