Photo: Pakutaso

Frightening video shows Japan’s stop-and-listen-for-trains driving rule maybe isn’t so silly after all

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

If you read our series of articles about the process of getting a driver’s license in Japan without going to driving school, you might have noticed that there are some less-than-intuitive things they check for on the test. For example, even at controlled train crossings with a gate that comes down if a train is going to be going by, you’re required by law to come to a full stop, even if the gate is open. What’s more, the test administrators will mark you down if you don’t look both ways before proceeding, and if you don’t put your window down and listen for the sound of an approaching train while you’re doing this.

That might sound overly cautious, and even some Japanese people think it’s overkill. However, a recent incident that occurred in Osaka, seen in the video below, has reminded many people that all that “overkill” is better than being killed.

At around 6:30 in the morning on February 6, a car was stopped at a railroad crossing in the city’s Nishinari Ward, near Nishi Tengachaya Station on the Koya Line. When the gate went up, the car’s driver moved the vehicle forward, at the same time a train was passing through what was supposed to be a clear intersection.

Luckily, the driver of the train had noticed that something was amiss as the train approached the crossing and applied the emergency brake, slowing the train but not enough to stop it before it reached the intersection. Thought contact was made between the train and car, thankfully it wasn’t direct or forceful enough for a full-on-crash, and neither the car or train’s drivers, nor any of the 10 passengers on the train, suffered injuries.

▼ An alternate angle of the incident

The cause of the problem was determined to be a circuit breaker malfunction stemming from construction that had been carried out the previous night by Koya Line operator Nankai Electric Railway Co. to replace railroad ties at a site roughly 600 meters (1,969 feet) away from the intersection. Construction errors resulted in vibrations from passing trains adversely affecting the equipment’s ability to relay signals to the crossing gate, leading the gate to raise despite a train approaching. Nankai Electric Railway Co. has since corrected the issue, but doing so required stopping service on the line for some 10 hours.

▼ The crossing where the incident took place, from the perspective of the car’s driver


The startling videos have had online commenters thinking back to their driving school days and leaving comments including:

“Wait, that can actually happen?”

“They should include this in the videos they make you watch at driving school.”

“Now I get why they make such a big deal out of lowering your window and looking both ways.”

“I remember thinking ‘Why do I have to do that when there’s an automated gate?’, but this is the sort of thing they were warning us about.”

“You’d never expect that a train is going to be coming right as the gate goes up.”

Looking at the video, it’s not entirely clear how much or how little of the driving school-taught procedure the car’s driver followed, but it’s reminder that automated safety systems aren’t perfect, and so it’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings when behind the wheel, especially when there are much, much bigger vehicles possibly coming at you from the side.

Source: NHK News Web via Jin, Twitter/@nhk_bknews, YouTube/ANNnewsCH via Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Japanese train stopped in its tracks after elderly resident leaves vegetables in its path

-- Getting a driver’s license in Japan the hard way: The first driving test a few more times

-- Man with death wish and/or nerves of steel waits for passing train INSIDE crossing gates

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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“They should include this in the videos they make you watch at driving school.”

Also they'll include this for anyone who extend their driving license.

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

So in japan the default position of a safety guard when not electrically supplied is not safe. That is the worst design possible.

Just make it that if any electrical issue it stays close, not open !

This rule of stopping at crossing rail intersection is make lose time and gas million times per day to Japan. Not clever.

And it does not prevent accidents at all, surely the opposite after stalling by simple experience.

5 ( +15 / -10 )

There’s a JR crossing that goes over 5 different tracks near me that would surely lead to a major problem if something went wrong.

Time for either more under or over passes to be built

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Wow, great to know. I always trusted those gates to much.

Just south of Kita Senju station in Tokyo, there's a place you have to cross 7 tracks, with 2 sets of gates really close together, but the traffic gets stalled by pedestrians crossing the street and I often see cars stopped right on the tracks. Luckily the express trains all stop at this station, so they aren't going at full speed at this point, but still, a disaster waiting to happen.

Just up the rails a few stops at Takenotsuka station, they just finished raising the tracks after a horrible accident killed several pedestrians over 10 years ago.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Just obey the rule..

It's for our security..

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

I’ve been driving with people that simply go through the motions.

They stop on the line, don’t even look, don’t listen for anything, and go.

What’s the point if you get plowed by a train you didn’t even LOOK for?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Driving everyday around Tokyo I see many drivers that simply stop right before the gate so they dont get fined and then proceed without checking any side. So many traffic accidents could be avoided if people weren't overly confident, it almost seems like the longer they drive they "graduate" the rules they believe it was created for newbies. This is very dangerous especially in a place like Tokyo where you drive through the city surrounded by hordes of totally clueless pedestrians/cyclists.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Of the Billions of vehicles crossing at the 10,000s of train-crossings every year, how many signal failures are there? How many accidents?

The same could happen at any road traffic light situation. There could be a signal failure or mishap.

We don't want drivers slowing cautiously at green lights, looking directly left and right...well just because.... you never know!

Other countries, when I've driven, I can only recall stopping if boom gates are down or signals are flashing and bells ringing. Otherwise it's always slow down (signs) and proceed carefully. When I drove a school bus long ago in Australia we were instructed to stop at all crossings - not sure if that's changed. And that's the only case I know of.

I believe the current dead-stop look both ways rules, were introduced way back in the infancy of car / train crossings and have never really been updated, even with modern electronics.

I understand at some of the crazy crossings like those in major cities, but they are not so many and could have separate rules posted.

My city here has only 2 crossings out of many that you don't have to stop as they have separate traffic lights installed called  fumikiri shingo (踏切信号). It's heaven to just slow down a little and continue driving through. But still there are people who come to a dead-stop with Green Lights Blazing, causing all to suddenly brake.

There should be many more of such similar crossings nationwide.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I thought this was a thing in every country.

In a similar vein, I see so many people cross the road on foot without bothering to look left and right, darting into traffic without the notion that there might be a bike or car coming. Is there no sense of danger? Are children not taught when they're young to look both ways before crossing the road??

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Not visually checking any crossing of any type while driving is idiocy at its finest. It's also best to assume that green lights mean 'proceed with caution' as the unexpected can happen. Funnily enough even with all the rules in place, people deliberately and accidentally break them.

Being right doesn't count for much if you're dead.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Some people doing crazy stuff just to save a few minutes end up too often paying with their lives. Sad and stupid.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Wow. I always thought the rule was stupid... but then again I assumed (wrongly) that Japan's infrastructure was reliable... after watching that video I think I will pay more attention and rely less on the boom gates. Same way I always check for cars even though the pedestrian sign says its ok to walk before crossing the street.

Stay safe.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I still think the rule is stupid even after watching this. There is a blind spot with this particular crossing, but there usually isn’t and you can see if there’s a train without having to come to a full stop and wind your window down(!). It reminds me of the person who drives around at 20mph thinking that they’re being a ‘safety driver’. We don’t stop at crossing lights when they’re on green ‘just in case’.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Outside of cities, it’s a dumb rule. I can see the train line for several kilometers in both directions where I cross, as it just cuts through rice fields. No need to come to a complete stop.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Even when I'm walking across I will check both ways for any oncoming trains. I avoid touching the tracks in case my shoe gets struck.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Its always better to be safe than sorry.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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