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Fatigue a key factor in accidents, NTSB says

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday repeated its frequently ignored warning that operator fatigue is a primary cause of serious transportation accidents in the United States.

"Our investigations have found that lost sleep equals lost lives," said NTSB Chairman Marion Blakey as she kicked off National Sleep Awareness Week.

Research shows that some 100,000 highway crashes each year involve "drowsy driving," claiming 1,500 lives, the NTSB said in a written release.

On waterways, NTSB analysis of marine vessel casualties cites fatigue as a cause in 16 percent of accidents, while on the nation's rails, it has contributed to nearly 20 accidents over the past decade, the board said.

The NTSB noted that it had recently found pilot fatigue was a factor in a 1999 Little Rock, Arkansas, plane crash that killed 10 people and resulted in 105 injuries.

The NTSB said little progress has been made in revising federal regulations to incorporate the latest research on sleep issues.

It recommends the Transportation Department and its agencies establish scientifically based regulations that limit duty hours and provide adequate time for rest for anyone operating a vehicle.




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