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Bullet train driver stops train because he forgot his glasses

40 Comments

The driver of a bullet train driver applied the emergency brake on his train in Okayama on Sunday night after he apparently realized he wasn't wearing his glasses, West Japan Railway Co (JR West) said on Monday. The driver told passengers on the train intercom system that the brake had been applied because a crew member wasn't feeling well.

According to a TV Asahi report, the driver, a 48-year-old man, was operating the Nozomi-53 Sanyo train bound for Hakata from Tokyo. He contacted the Tokyo office just after 8 p.m. and said he had forgotten his glasses and that he would be stopping the train. He then applied the brakes about eight kilometers shy of Okayama station. JR West sent another driver to relieve him and the train arrived at its destination approximately 45 minutes late.

JR West released a statement Monday in which it apologized to passengers for the inconvenience and said that it doesn't know why the driver lied about the reason for stopping. The company also told press that the driver has been employed with them for 24 years and was only required to wear glasses since early this month, when he just barely missed the required score to drive without them on an eyesight test.

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40 Comments
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Driver with a good vision, accident averted, life saved, JR should rewards him. no more sarcasm.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Honest mistake. Completely understandable.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Tough call. But I don't think he will be rewarded for doing the "right" thing. If anything had happened he would have been blamed. Odds are nothing would have happened, but if it did...

I think the man needs to splurge on a second pair of glasses for emergencies.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

JR West released a statement Monday in which it apologized to passengers for the inconvenience and said that it doesn’t know why the driver lied about the reason for stopping.

I'd like to see JR West find a driver in its ranks who would be willing to announce to 700+ passengers "I seem to have forgotten my glasses back at the station--there will be a delay of at least 45 minutes while I wait for someone to deliver them."

8 ( +9 / -1 )

sooo... they only travel with ONE qualified driver onboard per train? Anyone else see an issue here?

Besides that, he did the right thing IMO.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

By publicly humiliating the driver (though his name isn't being released to the mass media, many of his colleagues surely know who he is) it will be much less likely that a driver will do the right thing when faced with a similar such dilemma in the future. This is akin to punishing a whistle blower.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

As a car driver (at least in Germany, I don't know if the law applies in Japan) I am required to have an extra pair of glasses in my car in case the original ones get broken, if I want to continue my ride.

I wonder if such requirement also exists in Japan, and if exists for train drivers (to have spare glasses)?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Better to loose one minute of your life than your life in one minute

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Weird

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Better to be late then dead early, the driver lied to appease the passengers but not to the Tokyo office. He must have been having trouble focusing. He rightly stopped the train to avoid a possible accident Sensible

3 ( +4 / -1 )

sooo... they only travel with ONE qualified driver onboard per train? Anyone else see an issue here?

I don't. It's a train, not a 747. Are you suggesting all trains in Japan should have an extra driver aboard, or just shinkansens?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Hmmm - I can understand how this happened, if the guy has only just started wearing glasses and is not used to having to carry them around with him. I think he did the right thing, to the letter of the law, a little over-zealous maybe but easy to say that given that nothing happened. We would be roasting him alive right now if the headline had been tragically different.

The only thing that surprises me: this was a train from Tokyo, right? And he pulled the brake 8kms outside Okayama? Did he manage to get all that way before noticing he wasnt wearing his glasses???!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

He could have said a minor safety protocol had been violated, but its tough to think of such things on the spot.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

He did the right thing, and this shows professionalism. He should not forget the glasses next time though. Better be late than have an accident.

If he just started wearing glasses it is easy to see how this could happen. We are all humans.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Bless his cotton socks.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Nothing wrong with saftey first if he felt his vision wasn't 100%.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Glad to see nearly everyone here feels this was the right thing to do. Responsible driver, probably very embarrassed, but put the safety of his passengers first. Well done.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I think the driver did the right thing. Since he had failed the test only recently and only by a barely, there is almost no perceptible difference for him with or without glasses except for the feeling of the glasses frame. I feel like this with glasses and it happened all to often in my life that I started to search my glasses while wearing them or the other way round. And my eyesight is bad enough that I am in serious trouble without glasses or contact lenses and I have been wearing them for almost twenty years daily by now.

You should also keep in mind that there are large daily fluctuations of the accuracy of vision of human eyes. I think daily changes of +-0.5 dioptres is absolutely normal, but determines the difference between a passed and a failed test.

he should have stated honestly that there is a violation of a safety protocol, but without any further risk to the passengers. That would have been honest without being a lie. Normally, Japanese society encourages such behaviour and Japanese people are very good at it.

@societymike:

You have a good point about just one driver. What if the driver had a heart attack or something? Since they have so many service people in the train, couldn't they also train them in handling the Shinkansen (and other trains)? I guess these employees would be more than happy for the occasional change of duties and they would be even closer bound to their employer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Shinkenssens should have two drivers as they travel at high speed and carry passengers.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

JR West...said that it doesn’t know why the driver lied about the reason for stopping.

Would it have killed them to actually stand by a veteran employee's decision? JR West's makes me seriously question their leadership and wonder what their recommendation is in said scenario.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The only thing that surprises me: this was a train from Tokyo, right? And he pulled the brake 8kms outside Okayama? Did he manage to get all that way before noticing he wasnt wearing his glasses???!

The Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen travels through 2 JR jurisdictions, JR Tokai from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka and then JR West from Shin-Osaka to Hakata. Train drivers will not operate the entire route. As a matter of fact, Any Nozomi from Tokyo to Hakata will have an exchange of its driver, conductors and concession staff at Shin-Osaka. As such, in this case, the driver in question likely boarded and operated the train from Shin-Osaka, and was approaching the second stop (after Shin-Kobe).

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Shinkansen would NOT need a second driver, if the primary concern was safety. Their current system covers it well, since if there is any anomaly, including if the driver fell ill, the default protocol would be to stop the train in question (and also all nearby trains) immediately. The stopping can be handled by a "dead-man's switch" system and also by ATC controls.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have a very poor vision, Without a pair of glasses, I can hardly see when I am driving 70 miles/hr. I can understand this. He made a right call on this. Being safe is better than sorry. I take my hat off for this guy.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It's ridiculous to suggest that the shinkansen should have 2 drivers for safety reasons. It's not a plane, and it doesn't just carry on at 200km/h in the event of something happening to the driver. It stops, quickly and safely. Where's the problem?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I wear glasses and while I don't have very bad eyesight I definitely need them at night. During the day I can drive without them, just. He probably only realized he didn't have them on once it started getting dark. He did the right thing. I keep a second pair in my car in case something happens my main pair

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nicky Washida

The only thing that surprises me: this was a train from Tokyo, right? And he pulled the brake 8kms outside Okayama? Did he manage to get all that way before noticing he wasnt wearing his glasses???!

I'm completely speculating since it says nothing to the effect in this article, but maybe his vision needed correction only for low light conditions like at night? If all he needed was to wear glasses to improve his night vision then having only recently started wearing glasses he may not have noticed until it began to get dark. The 2000 time reported in the article loosely supports this possibility...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To drive a bullet train in Japan, 20/20 vision (corrected with lens) in both eyes is required. When he had his eyes examined on August 2nd, his left eye measured 20/20 (without correction) but his right eye was less than 20/20. His left eye was 1.0 but his right eye was 0.9 in Japanese eye exam. 1.0 is equivalent to 20/20 vision. He was actually wiping his sweat off his face when he realized he was't wearing glasses.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Must be this guy's vision is not that bad, if he had vision as bad as mine, he would have immediately noticed that he wasn't wearing his glasses.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wow! This guy should be the new PM of Japan. Perhaps we can get some safety standards in order with him in charge. Well done for taking safety seriously...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Probably started getting a headache from eyestrain which caused him to realize he'd forgotten them.

Leaving a second pair of glasses on the train would be counter-productive because there's no guarantee you'd get the same locomotive pulling the cars from one day to the next.

A second driver is unnecessary because the drivers have a "dead-man switch" for just that - if the driver suddenly dies without warning, the switch is released and the train stops.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The drivers only manage the trains when the speed is below 80 km/hr, when approaching and leaving stations; the rest of the time they are automatic/ computer controlled from central HQ.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hoping JR do the right thing here - a mistake, but not summary punishment please - that would drive other honest mistakes into the ground. Next time though, even the driver would have to admit there is a problem!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

safety 101%. just to be sure

0 ( +0 / -0 )

and where was the co-driver anyway?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think he over-reacted. If it was only slight vision impairment he could have pulled into the station slower than normal and they could've exchanged drivers there. He has 24 years experience and could've probably pulled in with his eyes closed. Pun intended.)

He pulled into the previous stations just fine without his glasses. (Station if he started driving from Shin Osaka). Also, a conductor could've been called to the front to assist the driver with visual assistance.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

At least one man who couldn't be intimidated by the inhuman, cruel and meaningless disciplinary actions and instead of driving hundreds of passengers into their death, had the guts to do what he needed to to do.

Meanwhile, I don't understand why he started the train and run eight kilometers without being able to read the digital display on the instrument panel. What did he hoped for when started the train?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

and where was the co-driver anyway?

My thoughts exactly. There GOTTA be more than one person on board who can drive those things.... if not, that's a scary thought.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

and where was the co-driver anyway? .........................There GOTTA be more than one person on board who can drive those things..

I am surprised that many readers are surprised. How many people travel on a bullet train? One thousand? Is one thousand life worth paying a coo-driver? Not even the train worth, it has an insurance. Who invented the 21st century, moralists or greedy businessmen?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The Munya Times must be a union rep because the position of "co-driver" is a position that screams "union-created". What would a "co-driver" do when the driver wasn't incapacitated? He'd be sleeping in his chair waiting for the driver to become ill. THAT'S a union job - getting paid to do nothing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Munya Times must be a union rep because the position of "co-driver"

Or just a passenger who wants to travel safe.

What would a "co-driver" do when the driver wasn't incapacitated?

Share duties, reduce the occurrence of human error. Or the same what the captain and the coo pilots do when the air-plain flies on automatic flight control . A bullet train carries more passengers than an air-plain and more can die out of human errors.

THAT'S a union job - getting paid to do nothing.

That's the way of thinking that got us here.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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