Commuter train engineer may have been in a ‘daze’ (asleep), but this could happen to you if you drive…

December 3, 2013

Even professionals blow it. The latest news about the deadly commuter train crash in New York is that the engineer guiding the train may have fallen asleep, and that is why he failed to apply the brakes in time as he hit a curve at 82 mph where the speed limit is 30 mph.

There had been wonder at how the accident could have happened in that the train operator was a seasoned professional and had a reputation of being an exceedingly conscientious person. In initial reports he was quoted as saying the brakes did not work. But so far investigators indicate no mechanical problems were found. However the story is now that statements he made and his demeanor at the scene indicate that he may have been asleep — maybe the kind of sleep where it seems like you’re awake but you are not. Some reports say he told first responders he was in a “daze”.

Almost anyone who has driven a car or any vehicle knows what that is.┬áIt is of course the result of fatigue, but perhaps also the monotony of covering the same ground. No pun intended, but it is a wakeup call to all who conduct any kind vehicle — on the land or in the air. One has to be on top of his (her) game to safely drive (or fly an airplane, of course). There just is no room for distraction or loss of concentration.

I’m not in any way excusing the train engineer — and the investigation is not complete, so it would even be possible to find that some bizarre thing happened, some mechanical problem really did occur — but at this time it seems not.

I’ve spent the last decade and a half as a truck driver — so this hits home. But like I say, anyone who drives a car knows what this is all about.