Take steps to prevent accidents involving disabled people

Railroad crossings can be very dangerous for people with disabilities. Relevant organizations must take sufficient safety measures to prevent accidents in which disabled people get struck by trains on crossings.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has revised its guidelines for accessibility measures on roads. The measures now require local governments to install tactile tiles for the visually impaired in front of railroad crossings and to place tactile tiles with different patterns inside railroad crossings on the roads they manage.

This is to make it easier for blind and vision-impaired people to tell whether they are inside or outside a railroad crossing by using a white cane or feeling with the soles of their feet. The cost per crossing is expected to range from several hundred thousand yen to ¥1 million.

The ministry was prompted to revise the guidelines by an accident in April in which a blind woman with a white cane was struck and killed by an express train at a railroad crossing on the Kintetsu Line in Yamatokoriyama, Nara Prefecture. There were no tactile tiles at the crossing, and the woman is believed to have thought that she was standing outside of the boom barriers at the crossing.

It was a tragic accident. If tactile tiles had been in place, it could have been avoided.

Last August, a visually impaired man was hit and killed by a train at a railroad crossing in Mishima, Shizuoka Prefecture. There were also no tactile tiles at this crossing. It must be said that the dangers faced by the visually impaired at railroad crossings have so far been overlooked.

In the Kinki region, there are only six crossings with tactile tiles inside the crossings, including the accident site in Nara Prefecture, where the tiles were installed after the accident in April. There are approximately 32,000 railroad crossings nationwide. However, the transport ministry says it has not been able to get hold of information regarding the status of tile installations nationwide.

Compared to the installation of platform screen doors at stations, which the ministry has been actively promoting, measures regarding tactile tiles at railroad crossings are undeniably lagging behind.

The ministry has sought for such tiles to be installed in front of railroad crossings in principle and, if possible, inside railroad crossings. However, it has not made it mandatory. This is because there are many railroad crossings without sidewalks, making it difficult to install the tiles.

Local governments should first survey the situation and level of danger at railroad crossings in their respective areas. When doing so, it is important to listen to the opinions of such entities as railroad operators and organizations for visually impaired people, and begin installing tiles at crossings with the highest priority. The ministry should consider offering subsidies for that purpose.

There have been many accidents at railroad crossings involving wheelchair users who got stuck on uneven surfaces around the rails and were hit by trains. Officials must think about how to prevent accidents by considering the situations of all disabled people, not only people with visual impairments.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 13, 2022)