NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


NTSB HIGHLIGHTS SAFETY ISSUES RELATED TO SLEEP DISORDERS

March 29, 2005

Washington, D.C. - National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker today reemphasized the importance of medical screening for vehicle operators who may have undiagnosed sleep disorders. The remarks come at the beginning of National Sleep Awareness Week (March 28 - April 3), during which the NTSB hopes to raise public awareness of its ongoing concern about fatigue-related safety issues.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome affect 50 to 70 million Americans. Sleep disorders were among the safety concerns addressed in the Board's Special Investigation Report, Medical Certification of Noncommercial Drivers, adopted in November 2004. The Board has recommended education for vehicle operators and their physicians about sleep disorders and how they may contribute to fatigue-related performance decrements, improved medical exams for commercial operators that include questions on sleep problems, and restrictions on the use of medicines that may cause impairment during vehicle operation.

The Board also addressed sleep disorders at a public hearing hosted by NTSB in March 2003 concerning factors that contribute to medically related highway accidents. Acting Chairman Rosenker stated that the Board has linked fatigue resulting from sleep disorders to numerous accidents. He noted, "In many cases operators are not aware that they suffer from a sleep disorder until after they have been involved in a crash."

By raising awareness about the importance of sleep and the need for operators to be screened and, if needed, treated for sleep disorders, the Board hopes to decrease the number of accidents attributable to fatigue. In an effort to further highlight and share information on the significant role fatigue plays in transportation safety, the Safety Board has developed a two-day course designed to bring together federal and commercial transportation officials, law enforcement officers, and other interested parties to discuss the topic at the NTSB Academy in Ashburn, Virginia.

NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100

 

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.