Smartphone users asked to avoid using phones in light of increasing accidents on train platformsMind your step and refrain from using smartphones. Railway companies are asking people to avoid using smartphones while walking in light of the increasing number of smartphone-related accidents on train platforms.
By: (c) 2013, The Yomiuri Shimbun., Superior Telegram
TOKYO — Mind your step and refrain from using smartphones. Railway companies are asking people to avoid using smartphones while walking in light of the increasing number of smartphone-related accidents on train platforms.
After the rapid spread of mobile phones, and smartphones in particular, it is common to see some people walking with their eyes glued to their smartphone screens. But such behavior can be dangerous.
On Monday, a fifth-grade primary school boy fell onto the tracks at JR Yotsuya Station in Tokyo because he was reportedly using his mobile phone while walking. The accident has prompted the transport ministry and railway companies to urge the public to refrain from using mobile devices on platforms.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, the boy did not pay attention to where he was walking because he was focused on his mobile phone, causing him to slip on the platform. He fell onto the tracks just as a train was pulling into the station.
An emergency brake was activated and the boy was able to escape into the gap under the platform. While he managed to avoid being hit by the train, he was slightly injured.
The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has compiled data on falls at train stations that have been caused by mobile phone use since fiscal 2010. A total of 11 people fell onto train tracks due to mobile phone use in fiscal 2010, and rose to 18 the following fiscal year. According to the figures, such accidents account for only about 0.5 percent of the total.
However, falls at train stations with uncertain causes make up about 35 percent of the total. In some cases, some people who fell from platforms were reportedly able to pull themselves up to safety without reporting the incident to station staff.
"More falls [at train stations] could have been caused by mobile phone use," said an official at the ministry's railway bureau.
The danger posed by people walking while using their mobile phones is not limited to train platforms.
In mid-May, Katsumi Tokuda, a University of Tsukuba professor specializing in barrier-free environment studies, surveyed 650 university students in the metropolitan area and the Kansai region. According to the survey's results, 398 respondents, or 61.2 percent, said they frequently or sometimes collide with passersby when using smartphones or other mobile devices while walking.
"This survey targeted students, but the figure could have been even higher if it covered a wider age bracket," Tokuda said.
Kazuhiro Kozuka, an Aichi University of Technology professor and a traffic engineering expert, conducted an experiment measuring the decrease in a person's field of vision while playing a game or tweeting on a smartphone while walking.
In the experiment, a device was attached to a hat to track a smartphone user's eye movements while walking. The study's findings revealed that ambulatory smartphone users' horizontal field of vision was reduced to one-third of what it normally was.
"Smartphones are much riskier than ordinary mobile phones," Kozuka said.
Users are likely to keep their eyes glued to their smartphone screens since the devices are able to display a massive amount of information, according to Kozuka.
The trend is a serious problem for railway companies. Three years ago, they began asking people to refrain from using mobile phones during rush hours to prevent mobile-phone related falls at train stations.
About half of the nation's population is said to use smartphones.
"If smartphone use spreads further, such accidents could occur more frequently," a transport ministry official said. "We want people to be more careful when using the phones on platforms."