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No longer asleep at the wheel?

Following a catastrophic accident involving a commuter train that leaves victims seriously or fatally injured, people want answers. They want to know why the tragedy happened and how it could have been prevented.

A recent Eyewitness News 7 On Your Side Investigation uncovered significant information on the health of Metro North engineers. Twelve percent suffer from sleep apnea.

The Dangerous And Deadly Affects Of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea occurs when breathing is interrupted during sleep. People suffering from the disorder stop breathing repeatedly while sleeping. In many cases, hundreds of times. Depriving the brain and the rest of the body of oxygen impairs performance of the most basic everyday activities when left untreated.

Over time, more serious cases can result in strokes and heart attacks.

The MTA Taking Steps Towards Passenger Safety

On January 25, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) became the first public transportation agency nationwide to offer sleep apnea testing throughout their entire system. The decision comes after the 2013 Metro North train derailment that killed four and injured dozens at Spuyten Duyvil after the engineer fell asleep.

The MTA’s program will involve four medical groups who will conduct sleep apnea testing on all 20,000 commuter rail engineers and conductors, subway train operators and bus drivers. It will represent the first time Long Island Railroad engineers will be tested.

First Time Testing. First-Hand Experience.

While encouraged by the development, many accident victims and family members questioned why the MTA did not take action sooner. MTA Chair Thomas Prendergast claimed that they wanted to make sure they did it right and not rush the process.

Ironically, Mr. Prendergast also suffers from sleep apnea, something discovered after a potentially tragic event. He fell asleep while driving his car.

Following diagnosis and treatment, he experienced a difference in the quality of life.

“Thank god I wasn’t flying a plane,” he told CBS New York.

Or operating a train.

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