Boston Train Crash May Have Been Caused by Sleep Disorder

The National Transportation Safety Board has been investigating a fatal train accident that occurred last year, killing a Boston trolley operator. The safety board’s 14-month investigation blamed the operator for ignoring a red signal along the tracks but also criticized the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for failing to screen operators for sleep disorders.

The board suspects that the operator may have had a sleep disorder and potentially fell asleep behind the wheel, causing her to miss the red signal. Although she had not been diagnosed with sleep apnea, the board concluded that the operator likely had an undiagnosed sleep disorder because she was obese and tests showed that she had taken doxylamine, an ingredient commonly found in sleep aids.

There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol in her system at the time of the MBTA accident, which makes it surprising that the operator did not apply the brakes to avoid an accident. The trolley collision occurred in Newton, Massachusetts and caused an estimated $8.6 million in damage.

NTSB: Sleep disorder may have contributed to Boston train crash,, July 14, 2009
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