Can You Walk And Look At Your Smartphone? And Not Get Hit By A Train?

Before there were smartphones, Japanese people simply carried clamshell mobile phones. They were a bit harder to walk and send email with due to a small screen. People — most infamously schoolgirls — did it. Reading emails and websites was more difficult, too.

Smartphones, however, make it easier to do both. There appear to be more and more people staring at their smartphones. That's exactly why people are more falling into train tracks.

If you've ever been to a train station in Japan, you know that many of the platforms do not have barriers to separate them from the tracks (something that's true in other countries).

Some busy train stations that apparently have experienced high suicide incidents do have barriers — not all, though. The Osaka Monorail has a barrier, because so many of the stations are open air and elevated above roads and freeways.

The majority of people who fall onto the train trains are drunk — so if you or a friend are totally blitzed, a cab might be your best option. The number of these incidents skyrockets in Dec. and Jan. because of year-end drinking parties as well as the New Year holidays.

According to Yoimuiri Online, the country's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism warned that the increase of those falling on the tracks while using smartphones stands out.

Train platforms have yellow, bumpy pathways to help blind passengers board trains. Anecdotally, friends of mine say that when using their smartphone and walking, they know they're near the platform's edge, when they hit said yellow line.

The increase in people falling into train tracks while using their smartphones does seem related to the increase in smartphone use. The iPhone, which initially was not popular in Japan, has caught on in a major way, snagging 72 percent of the smartphone market by spring 2010.

Out went the clamshell design and Japanese companies and carries began offering their own smartphones to compete with Apple's iPhone. Japan's trains already have posters warning passengers about boarding trains while looking at mobile phones and Nintendo DSi handhelds. Only a matter of time before there are warnings about walking.

Culture Smash is a daily dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome — game related and beyond.

Top photo: Itsuo Inouye/AP


    Peripheral vision anyone? I know I don't have a problem avoiding falling onto the platform. I noticed that the article says most fallers are drunk.

    And what's this about barriers? There certainly aren't any in Melbourne. I didn't realise anyone had them.

      "And what’s this about barriers? There certainly aren’t any in Melbourne. I didn’t realise anyone had them."

      The article is about Japan, a few newer stations I've been to have them. Like the Tsukuba Express in Tokyo is quite new and has barriers, as do a few subway stops.

      Barriers would never work in Australia since apparently train drivers are unable to figure out where a good braking point is to consistently stop at stations...

        I believe the good McGarnical was referring to the latter half of this sentence:
        "If you’ve ever been to a train station in Japan, you know that many of the platforms do not have barriers to separate them from the tracks (something that’s true in other countries)"

    How about just looking at your phone while standing still on the platform?
    How about waiting to get onto the train before checking your email?
    How about not staring at your f*cking phone 24/7 reading inane bullshit like this comment and look around for once?

    this is why I always thought phones with top or front-facing cameras should have a little picture-in-picture app - that way people can see all the things they are about to walk into/fall off/get eaten by/etc.

      Actually there are plenty of apps like that (eg. See Through Messaging) that allow you to look through your camera while texting, I've yet to try them though

      See what I was eaten by? So if it's pitch black I could see the Grue?

    Ladies and gentlemen... Mr Charles Darwin!

    While sad, it's kind of weird we don't have that problem in Australia given how many people I see walking around the Brisbane train station, eyes glued to their phones or portable devices.

    im pretty sure there are different levels of peripheral vision

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