'Society Unconscious of Sleep Problems'


'The Odd Truth'
TOKYO - A driver fell asleep at the helm of one of Japan's bullet trains while it was speeding at 170 mph with 800 passengers on board, the railway company said Thursday.

It is the first time on record that someone has nodded off while driving the Shinkansen, or bullet train - a high speed train that reaches maximum speeds of 180 miles per hour, West Japan Railway said. The train was apparently on auto-pilot at the time.

The train pulled into a station en route from Hiroshima and Tokyo and came to halt about 300 feet before it was supposed to. When officials from the station rushed to the driver's car, they found him asleep in his chair, JR West said.
The 33-year-old driver told West Japan Railway officials he "has no memory" of what happened for about eight minutes until he was awakened. Drivers normally take over from the automatic controls and drive the train manually in the final approach to a station.
West Japan Railway said the driver had gotten plenty of sleep and hadn't been drinking alcohol before the incident. The company is still investigating why he fell asleep. There were no injuries to anyone on board.

© 2003 CBS NEWS