• Kyodo

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A former highway bus driver was sentenced Friday to six months in prison, suspended for four years, after being found guilty of drinking alcoholic beverages before starting a shift in July.

The Kofu District Court handed the sentence to Kiyoshi Nagaoka, 50, a former driver for Nagoya-based JR Tokai Bus Co.

Nagaoka “lacked awareness of the responsibilities of being a driver of a highway bus and the situation was abnormal,” Judge Takehisa Yamamoto said.

However, Yamamoto took into consideration the fact that the defendant had no previous record of traffic law violations and that he has already received social punishment. Nagaoka was sacked less than two weeks after the incident.

According to the ruling, Nagaoka consumed 360 ml of shochu, a distilled spirit, at his home early on the morning of July 7. He then purchased two cans of “chuhai,” a shochu-based beverage, as well as a bottle of shochu on his way to work.

He finished the two cans and began his route from Nagoya Station to Shinjuku Station in Tokyo at 12:30 p.m. At around 4:30 p.m., he drank some 70 ml from the bottle during a rest stop at the Lake Suwa Parking Area on the Chuo Expressway in Nagano Prefecture, according to the ruling.

At around 5:30 p.m., Nagaoka’s bus brushed against a car parked at the Dangozaka Parking Area in Yamanashi Prefecture. Police who were called to the scene confirmed that there was alcohol on his breath.

One of the passengers, frightened by Nagaoka’s erratic driving, sent an e-mail via cellular phone to a relative saying the driver of the bus seemed to be drunk.

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