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Distracted smartphone users hit by flood of safety warnings

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Advertising Council Japan has launched a new TV campaign titled "Nagara sumaho ni manaa wo," which appeals to smartphone users to give more consideration to others. After showing a young female in several collisions or near-collisions with self-absorbed phone users, and a young mother ignoring her small child while crossing a street, the ad demonstrates the proper form of usage: First get off the sidewalk, find a bench, sit down, and only then start using the mobile.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Sept 16) also took up this theme in its "Follow Up" column, noting that increasing numbers of people who use smartphones to view the Internet or send mails while on the move are running into trouble -- literally. Railway companies and service providers are finally beginning issue warnings.

From the beginning of September, moving electronic displays in Tokyo station began posting the message, "Walking while operating a smartphone is extremely dangerous." Unfortunately, few people appeared to give it much attention, probably because their eyes were all focused on their phone displays.

"Well, I might exchange mails with clients or check the stock quotations, and I've never had any problems," sniffed a 26-year-old salaryman in Tokyo's Bunkyo Ward.

According to statistics compiled by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, 11 cases of people falling off station platforms while texting occurred nationwide in 2010, and the figure rose to 18 in 2011. In May 2012, a 5th year primary schoolboy was injured after he fell off the platform at Tokyo's JR Yotsuya Station.

A survey of 650 university students in Tokyo and Kansai conducted by Tsukuba University Prof Katsumi Tokuda found that 61% respondents said they either had the experience of colliding with, or nearly colliding into someone while using a mobile device. Of these, 15 said they had suffered an injury as a result. In 97% of those cases, a smartphone was involved.

Tokuda also noted the dangers of collisions were greater for the elderly, small children and the visually impaired.

"It's dangerous," he said. "I'd like to see more people regard this practice unfavorably."

It's even come to the point that in August, NTT DoCoMo posted a huge precautionary ad aimed at mobile users near the east exit of JR Shinjuku Station. The company also conducted mobile safety classes for primary, junior high and high school students. Currently JR East Japan, JR Tokai and the Tokyo Metro subway have begun broadcasting voice warnings concerning smart phone use, both in stations and aboard trains.

Last July, Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward held a public meeting to exchange views on dealing with the problem. Some of the attendants argued in favor of an ordinance prohibiting such activities, but attorney Hiroshi Ochiai says determining which situations would warrant enforcement would be difficult.

"Are you going to use it against people who just take a quick glance at their phones?" he asks. "It'll be hard to determine violations."

Akira Shimizu, head of Chiyoda Ward's general affairs section, notes that with time, passengers eventually began to refrain from using mobile devices on or next to train seats set aside for the elderly, disabled and expectant mothers. "Rather than laws handed down from the government, I'd like to see other types of effective measures put into place," he says.

A sidebar to the Nikkei article notes that tests of smartphone users on the street in a Nagoya entertainment area, conducted by Prof Kazuhiro Kozuka of the Aichi University of Technology, found that while sending or receiving Twitter messages, their field of vision was reduced to about one-fifth of normal. Peripheral vision was affected even more -- perhaps to less than one-tenth of normal.

"The screens on smartphones show a large amount of data, including moving data, and it's easy for users to become mesmerized by their constantly changing contents," Kozuka warns. "They're far more dangerous than the previous type of cell phones."

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

24 Comments
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If I were a moviemaker, I would find this a very amusing topic for a short film. You could throw in a few animals texting somewhere as well.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I have seen people jogging while looking at their smart phones. Ugh.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

... just wait for google glasses and people driving while "just checking their mail quickly", because banish the thought that one might actually wait 5 minutes before checking mail

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I have been in Japan over 6 years. Smart phones didn't really pick up here until the last 3 years really. I see NOTHING different between Japans old phones and smart phones. Plenty of my students still have the old style cell phones. No matter what phone they have, they still play games, search the web, and text while doing walking, in class, on their bike, ignoring their kid. Smart phones are not any better or worse. I have seen plenty of people walking, riding their bike, and yes DRIVING while reading a book or manga.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

I think it would be proper to compare a pedestrian texting and bump into someone and thinking he/she is right and having that same person witness another person being runover by a driver texting and driving. No matter if you are on a bike or just walking, if you do not pay attention to what you are doing you are a danger to your self and others!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

And once again it's "smart phones" and not even cell phones in general. Now, send this message to the woman who bumped into me yesterday afternoon while hastily exiting the bank I was passing by. She wasn't using a smart phone, another cell phone, or piece of technology people are afraid of -- she was staring at her bank book.

People who don't pay attention should pay attention, period. It's not the tool. I've seen plenty of people 'mesmerized' by maps as they walk to their desired destination, especially teachers looking for parents houses on home visits -- do we criticize maps? how about car navigation systems and taking your eyes off the road?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

@smithinjapan I really think its a cultural thing. I think it has deeps roots in that they are a group like society. When I used to teach in public schools. I would be standing behind a student watching them work. They would jump out of their seat when they realized I was there. It was so easy to startle and surprise the kids. It wasn't like I was trying. They just seem less focused on the world around them. It is the same with car doors. How many times has a car or truck pulled over and just opened the door with out even looking. They just assume you are aware of them and are going to not hit them. The same with just walking into the road, swinging their car door open and getting in. I really think it all ties into a group mentality. I will just look down at what ever I am doing and its okay, because "we are all watching out for each other". I know its not that simple. We see the same things in Western culture, but the prevalence of people not paying attention while they are doing something in Japan just seems so much higher, does it not?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Phones have become smart,or have people become dumb?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Smartphones are not the problem. Japanese people's lack of awareness of their surroundings is. Never ever have I seen so many distracted people acting as if they are unaware of the existence of others. The smartphone is just an enhancer of this behavior.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Something desperately needs to be said about bicycle riders who text while riding. A lot of them also have earphones.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

inakarob: "...but the prevalence of people not paying attention while they are doing something in Japan just seems so much higher, does it not?"

It does indeed, and hence my comments that it is not smart phones to blame, but society as a whole. Knox is correct, society is so self-complacent that they just assume everyone else will simply go around them.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Somebody needs to start compiling and circulating a "Darwin Awards" list of recently expired smart phone users.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

It's ridiculous that the authorities are trying to find an excuse (the smartphones) to hide a lack of education and common sense of people. The fact that in Japan people would look at their phones all the time even when they shouldn't has been going on for a long time. It has existed before the smartphones became popular, it just got even worse as smartphones give them even more to look at.

People are dumb, don't blame the technology for that....

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"11 cases of people falling off station platforms while texting occurred nationwide in 2010, and the figure rose to 18 in 2011." -- Is this particularly alarming?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

yay Darwin

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@gavoz

Phones have become smart,or have people become dumb?

Both. People have forgotten what their parents taught them when they were little. My 2 year old looks behind when he's walking or running, and constantly bumps into things as he turns around. He'll get the hang of it soon enough, but I really hope he won't forget these lessons and go the way of the tunnel-visioned drones I see outside every day.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

some satsu standing outside our office today with a poster and leaflets telling people not to cycle and use phone at same time...... Action, Japan style. Now for the inevitable 2 day "crackdown"

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"According to the transport ministry, 11 phone users fell from platforms in 2010, rising to 18 in 2011". I wonder what the statistics are for people riding bicycles on the wrong side of the road (at night, without lights on, while listening to music etc) and how the efforts being made to tackle this compare with the distracted phone user campaign.

I see junior high kids riding round blind corners in residential districts on the wrong side of the road all the time. I have yet to see a "wide show" feature on the subject though.

I would be very surprised if the nationwide numbers for accidents caused by this behavior are below 20.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Akira Shimizu, head of Chiyoda Ward's general affairs section, notes that with time, passengers eventually began to refrain from using mobile devices on or next to train seats set aside for the elderly, disabled and expectant mothers.

It's obvious that this guy does not ride my subway line, or maybe any subway line. There may have been a brief period in the past where people "began to refrain," but that doesn't apply today. In fact, the new Wi-Fi coverage installed on subway lines pretty much encourages more mobile device usage.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

61% respondents said they either had the experience of colliding with, or nearly colliding into someone while using a mobile device. Of these, 15 said they had suffered an injury as a result. In 97% of those cases, a smartphone was involved.

I have had numerous collisions, mainly at train stations. I'm a big guy, it's usually them who wears it.The worst is when you are exiting a train and some zombie is glued to their iphone and trying to enter without looking or waiting. Maybe I need to keep score.1 point for a collision, 2 points if the idiot drops their phone.?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Akira Shimizu, head of Chiyoda Ward's general affairs section, notes that with time, passengers eventually began to refrain from using mobile devices on or next to train seats set aside for the elderly, disabled and expectant mothers

I hate that stupid rule. Using a "mobile device" near the priority seat is NOT going to harm anyone. Why are people so dumb that they still believe that?!? If signals were that dangerous, we'd have people falling dead on the streets because of them every day. People with pacemakers would have to live in lead-lined houses. They should take down all those stickers etc in trains telling people not to use phones near priority seats.

I have had numerous collisions, mainly at train stations. I'm a big guy, it's usually them who wears it.The worst is when you are exiting a train and some zombie is glued to their iphone and trying to enter without looking or waiting. Maybe I need to keep score.1 point for a collision, 2 points if the idiot drops their phone.?

Same here. Knocking on their ass gets me 3 points. If they are coming at me like they're on rails, then sorry, they're going to learn the hard way.

“Are you going to use it against people who just take a quick glance at their phones?” he asks. “It’ll be hard to determine violations.”

There is a difference between a quick glance, and staring at the screen ignoring everything around you.

I do take quick glances, and if I need to do any more, I find somewhere out of the way to do it

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I really hate seeing mothers staring at their phones while their kids run around!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

find a bench

Could take weeks.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Honestly though...it's risky business. I don't mind passing someone who is clued to their smart-phone for what-ever-reason. But...I DO mind when someone is facing and walking straight at me without the coutesy of stopping or by-passing. Too many discomfort close-encounters.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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