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2014年3月27日 (木)

関越道バス事故 命預かる責任を重んじた判決

The Yomiuri Shimbun March 27, 2014
Court decision emphasizes bus drivers’responsibility to protect passengers
関越道バス事故 命預かる責任を重んじた判決(3月26日付・読売社説)

Serious blame must fall on the bus driver found responsible for causing a tragic accident in 2012 by driving despite a lack of sleep and losing control of his bus. The enormous responsibility of being entrusted as a bus driver with passengers’ lives should be recognized.
 乗客の命を預かる運転手が寝不足でハンドルを握り、惨事を招いた責任は重い。安全運行を最優先すべきバス業界への警鐘となる判決である。

The court ruling on the driver’s negligence is a warning to bus companies, whose most important duty is to transport passengers safely. Seven people died and 38 were injured in the April 2012 accident involving the tour bus on the Kanetsu Expressway in Gunma Prefecture. The 45-year-old driver faced several charges, including negligent driving resulting in injury or death.
On Tuesday, the Maebashi District Court sentenced the driver to nine years and six months in prison, without a suspended sentence. It also ordered him to pay a fine of ¥2 million.
 群馬県内の関越自動車道で2012年4月、7人が死亡、38人が負傷したツアーバス事故で、前橋地裁は、自動車運転過失致死傷罪などに問われた運転手(45)に懲役9年6月、罰金200万円の実刑判決を言い渡した。

The decision to give the defendant a harsh punishment, nearly equal to the penalty sought by prosecutors, appears to indicate that the court took into account the severity of the driver’s negligence.
 ほぼ求刑通りの重い量刑となったのは、運転手の過失の重大性を考慮した結果だ。

It is known that the driver complied with a request from his bus company to work, despite being sleep-deprived due to his continuously busy work schedule. During the rest period given to him, he made numerous calls from a cell phone. The accused then went back to work without sufficient rest before the fatal accident.
 被告の運転手は多忙な勤務状態が続き、睡眠不足だったにもかかわらず、バス会社側の乗務要請に応じた。仮眠時間中も何度も携帯電話で話をするなど、十分な休息をとらなかった。

The district court had every reason to condemn the driver’s behavior as “extremely thoughtless.”
 判決が、運転手の対応を「非常識きわまりない行動」と批判したのは、もっともである。

The driver was diagnosed through a pretrial analysis as having a moderate case of sleep apnea syndrome (SAS), a sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep.
SAS sufferers can be seized by strong drowsiness during the day while also feeling fatigue. According to an estimate, there are more than 2 million sufferers of the disease nationwide.
 運転手は公判前の鑑定で、中度の睡眠時無呼吸症候群(SAS)と診断された。
睡眠中に呼吸が止まった状態を繰り返す病気で、日中に強い眠気を催し、疲労を感じるのが特徴だ。患者は全国で200万人以上とされる。

During the trial, the driver’s defense counsel cited his SAS while insisting he be acquitted on some counts. “[The man] fell asleep without prior indication of drowsiness. [The accused] is not to blame,” the defense team told the court.
 弁護側は、運転手がSASであることを理由に、「予兆なく睡眠に陥った。過失はない」と一部無罪を主張した。

Sleep disorder to blame?

However, the court ruled that the driver had already been sleepy before the accident. Its ruling also stated that it was fully possible for him to take appropriate actions even if he had begun to show SAS symptoms, such as resting at a parking area along the expressway.
 これに対し、判決は「事故前に眠気を催していた」と認定した。SASの症状が出たとしても、パーキングエリアで休憩するなど、適切な対応を取ることは十分に可能だったとも指摘した。

Why did the driver remain behind the wheel? There is no imagining the depth of regret felt by the families of the victims who died.
 なぜ、運転を続けたのか。遺族の無念さは察して余りある。

There have been other cases involving possible sufferers of SAS, including a fatal accident caused by a bus driver on the Hokuriku Expressway in Toyama Prefecture early this month. The accident killed two people and injured 26 others. The driver had been diagnosed as requiring observation for his potential SAS symptoms.
 SASを巡っては、今月、富山県の北陸道で28人が死傷する事故を起こしたバスの運転手も、「要経過観察」と診断されていた。

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has asked transportation companies to check drivers and other personnel for SAS and, if necessary, get them medical treatment at an early date. However, there is no compulsory rule requiring such corporations to check their employees for SAS.
 国土交通省は、運輸事業者に対し、乗務員の早期診断や手当てを求めているものの、検査を義務づけてはいない。

Given that SAS can lead to accidents, we believe the ministry should consider requiring transportation companies to ensure that their employees undergo SAS checkups.
事故に結びつく恐れがある疾病であることを考えれば、検査の義務づけも検討すべきではないか。

The 2012 accident has triggered some improvements in the system for operating long-distance expressway buses. For instance, the transport ministry has lowered the upper limit on the length of routes operated by expressway buses at night from 670 kilometers to 400 kilometers as a general rule. The ministry has also set a new rule limiting the time bus drivers can sit behind the wheel to no more than 10 hours per day.
 関越道の事故は、高速バスの運行形態を改善するきっかけとなった。国交省は、夜間運行の上限距離を670キロから原則400キロに引き下げ、1日の乗務時間も最長10時間とする新基準を設けた。

Bus companies must adhere to the new rules, and they must keep watch on the health condition of their drivers.
 バス会社は、新基準を順守することはもちろん、運転手の体調管理を怠ってはならない。

If bus drivers suspect any symptoms of bad health, they should immediately tell their companies and abstain from duty. Doing so is the obligation of all professional drivers.
 運転手も体調に異変を感じたら、即座に会社に報告し、乗務を見合わせる。それがプロのドライバーとしての責務だ。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 26, 2014)
(2014年3月26日01時47分  読売新聞)

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