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Dangerous Human Factor: Fatigue

It could be the pilot of your airplane, a bus driver or a trucker — or it could be you. People who operate vehicles while fatigued are dangerous.

In August, 2013, an early morning Federal Express cargo flight from Kentucky to Alabama crashed about a mile from its intended runway. The two pilots were killed and the airbus was destroyed.

In February of this year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a hearing as part of its investigation. The hearing highlighted a dangerous factor in many transportation accidents — human fatigue.

At the hearing, the data recorder from the airplane replayed the conversation between the cockpit crew during the last flight of their lives. Details of the accident revealed during the hearing included:

  • Comments made by the pilot and co-pilot about their fatigue were reviewed. The pilots discussed the difference in rest standards for pilots of passenger and cargo planes.
  • During the descent portion of the flight, the pilots made several critical errors that likely contributed to or caused the plane flying into a hillside.

While the incident calls into question safety protocols for pilots, the underlying concern is for the effect of fatigue on the coordination, mental alertness and decision-making ability of those involved in transportation.

In December of 2013, a sleeping engineer contributed to the deaths of four people and injured 70 others when a speeding Metro-North commuter train derailed near New York City. During any morning or afternoon commute, drowsy driving contributes to minor and major accidents each year.

Make sure you get enough sleep to operate your car or other machinery before you take to the road. If you are hurt by an operator asleep at the wheel in New York, seek experienced legal counsel in Long Island.

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