Distracted smartphone users hit by flood of safety warnings
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.”