Around 4:40 a.m. on April 29, 2012, a long-distance tour bus on its way to the Tokyo Disney Resort crashed against a sound insulating wall of the Kan-Etsu Expressway in Fujioka, Gunma Prefecture, killing seven passengers from Toyama and Ishikawa prefectures and injuring 38 others. The Maebashi District Court on March 25 ruled that the driver, Kazan Kono, continued to drive although he felt sleepy and sentenced him to 9.5 years' imprisonment and fined him ¥2 million.
After the accident, Kono was found to be suffering from sleep apnea syndrome (SAS), a disorder characterized by the stoppage of breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. Bus operators must regularly carry out strict medical checkups of drivers and make sure they're not overworked. Drivers need to have the courage and common sense to stop driving and take a nap if they feel sleepy. The bottom line must be the safety of bus operations.
The focus of Kono's trial was whether he experienced sleepiness while driving. The prosecution said that since he felt sleepy in the 20 minutes before the accident, he should have been able to anticipate the danger of falling asleep. Thus it said that his continuing driving constituted negligence and called for 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of ¥2 million, almost the maximum punishment for dangerous driving causing death or injury.