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Fatigue and Sleep-Deprivation May Have Been the Cause of Deadly Arkansas Freight Train Accident

February 11, 2017

Train accidents can occur for a variety of reasons, but sleep deprivation and sleep-related disorders have been involved in many recent train accidents. According to USA Today, a report issued last month by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) provides investigative details into a deadly train accident that occurred in Arkansas more than two years ago.

Brief facts about this train accident include the following:

• A southbound Union Pacific train passed through warning lights and signals before striking a northbound Union Pacific train at around 2:30 in the morning in Arkansas;
• There was no sign of activity in the southbound Union Pacific train;
• The northbound Union Pacific crew did not have any time to apply the train's brakes to avoid colliding with the southbound train;
• The south-bound train had an automated alarm system that did not activate as intended;
• It is believed that both crew members on the southbound Union Pacific were asleep at the time of the collision;
• The two crew members on the south-bound train died as a result of the accident; and
• The crew members on the north-bound train survived the accident but suffered serious injuries.

Concerns Raised by The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

Both the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have warned that there are serious problems to address regarding train safety. First, too many accidents involve crew members that are either fatigued/drowsy or suffer from sleep-related disorders that could affect their ability to operate a train safely, such as sleep apnea. Second, numerous trains still do not have a Positive Train Control ("PTC") system in place that will automatically stop a train based on certain conditions.

Had the southbound train's warning system worked as intended, the crew members may have been alerted to an oncoming train. Additionally, if the train had a PTC system that would automatically stop the train, this accident may not have happened, and the crew members of both trains would not have been injured or killed as a result. However, because both southbound crew members were reportedly asleep at the time of the accident, there are greater concerns for train safety beyond adding new technologies that may help to reduce or eliminate the number of train accidents that occur in the United States.

Union Pacific Did Not Require Train Engineers to Report Sleep-Related Conditions

The NTSB report indicates that one of the southbound Union Pacific crew members had been diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2010. This is the type of condition that would be important to know about, but Union Pacific did not have any rules or regulations in place that required crew members to report a sleep-related disorder or condition. Because it is clear to the NTSB, the FRA and the federal government as a whole that sleep apnea and sleep deprivation are major contributing factors to train accidents, Congress has required that all railroads install PTC systems by 2018. Time will tell if this requirement will lead to a reduced number of catastrophic and deadly train accidents.

Contact Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law Today to Schedule Your Free Consultation

If you or a loved one has suffered personal injuries related to a train accident, you should consider speaking with a Georgia Personal Injury and Train Accident Attorney at Montlick & Associates right away. With more than 38 years of experience, Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law provides legal representation to clients from all across Georgia and in the Southeast. Many of these clients have suffered catastrophic and fatal injuries.

If you would like to speak with one of our Georgia Personal Injury and Train Accident Attorneys about your situation, contact Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law today by calling (800) LAW-NEED (529-6333) to schedule your free consultation. You may also visit us online at to complete a Free Case Evaluation Form, and you may also participate in a 24-hour Live Online Chat.

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Category: Personal Injury

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