• Hashimoto, Wakayama


the Jan. 22 article “Train driver who overslept prompts cancellation of early-morning runs”: I began to read this article with empathetic amusement, but my smile disappeared when my jaw dropped in disbelief. According to the article, the motorman decided to sleep at the Kintetsu Ikoma Station, Nara Prefecture, because he had finished work after midnight and was expected to drive a train at 6:03 a.m. With that schedule, I figure that had he awoken on time, the motorman would have piloted his train on about four hours of sleep taken on a less-than-comfortable cot or couch. I am dumbfounded.

If the Kintetsu motorman’s situation is typical, Japanese train companies are courting disaster. Sleep deprivation can affect judgment, slow reaction times, cause blurred vision and visual illusions, and even lead to emotional disorders. I now wonder if the motorman responsible for the horrifying April 2005 train crash (which killed 107 people) near Amagasaki station, Osaka, was impaired by exhaustion.

To help ensure the safety of their customers, airline companies must abide by strict rules concerning the amount of rest pilots must have, with a minimum period that allows for eight hours of sleep (at least a nine-hour break) between shifts as a general standard. I can’t imagine getting on a plane knowing that pilots routinely flew on four or fewer hours sleep between shifts. I’m astounded that train passengers in Japan apparently travel under such risk. Are there no regulations governing the amount of rest motormen must have between shifts?

william murphy

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