If there were a Murphy's Law about riding Japanese commuter trains, one might state, "The probability of a 'jinshin-jiko' occurring on your line is directly proportional to the urgency with which you need to reach your intended destination."
"Jinshin-jiko" translates literally as "Person-body accident." The term is kept purposely vague, so it might refer to anything from suicide leapers to drunken melees on the station platform. Typically they result in delays, sometimes of several hours, and when they occur, it's common for train stations to post notices advising commuters to seek alternate means of transport to their destinations.
The frequency of accidents on station platforms, often involving inebriated commuters, tends to rise during the year-end party season, during which time railway companies put up "manners posters" appealing to passengers to exercise restraint and show more consideration to their fellow commuters.
J-Cast News (March 20) reports that the West Japan Railway Co has gone the extra mile, so to speak, by monitoring the movements of staggering commuters on station security cameras, to better understand what causes them to have near-fatal brushes with moving trains or -- even worse -- go tumbling off the edge of the platform onto the tracks below.
According to the study's findings, in nearly 90% of such accidents, body movements of the commuters gave telltale indications that an accident was imminent.
The study, conducted by the Safety Laboratory (Anzen Kenkyujo) of JR West Japan, used videos recorded at stations of lines operated by JR West Japan and the Osaka Metropolitan Subway Co over a period of nine months from March 2014.
During this time, 75 platform accidents occurred and in 46 cases the movements of the commuters prior to the accidents were captured by video. Of these, five incidents (or 11%) showed no indications to suggest a mishap might occur. The remainder, however, warranted such descriptions as "Upper body was swaying back and forth," "Staggering," "Had to lean against pillar or wall in order to remain vertical," "stood out conspicuously from the movements of other commuters," and "squatted down on the platform or sprawled out on a bench."
Based on analysis of the videos, platform accidents involving drunks fall into three major categories: 1) those who lean against pillars or walls and are clearly having difficult maintaining their balance. These individuals tend to topple over in the direction of the tracks; 2) those who start moving from the center of the platform in the direction of the tracks at a 90-degree angle and are unable to stop, going off the edge of the platform; and 3) those who walk along the platform parallel to the tracks, losing their balance and stumbling.
As opposed to the third type's accounting for only 11% of all accidents, the second -- walking from the center of the platform toward the edge -- accounted for 59% of the total. Types 1) and 2) accounted for 89% of the accidents.
The research report concluded: "Only scant seconds are available for station staff or platform security staff to notice and warn inebriated passengers who had been standing stationary for some time and then suddenly resumed their motion, and in most cases a warning would come too late."
In search of developing a means of preventing such accidents, the Safety Laboratory intends to pursue further studies.© Japan Today