Why do the Japanese jump level crossings?

I see a shocking amount of this on my walk to work, and I say that as someone who is regularly ticked off by policemen for being the only person crossing the street at a red light. So, why are the Japanese, famous for happily waiting for the green man on completely deserted streets, perhaps more likely to rush across the train tracks – and that despite the motion sensor buzzing at them for doing so and the regular news stories of people being killed on train tracks?

First of all, this is yet another example of how the Japanese are not, as some assume, “law abiding”, they simply follow what the majority does, also seen at the few streets where people do regularly run across when the red man is showing, a whole stream of people following each other up the wrong side of the station stairs, etc etc. More importantly with level crossings, this is a perfectly rational reaction to the typical safety overkill by Japanese organisations (and the people who work for them). Perhaps as a reaction to people jumping them, the level crossing gates close long before they need to, but this of course makes people more likely rather than less likely to continue ignoring what they say. In the worst cases, gates are only open for a few seconds after ten or fifteen minutes closed, adding up to only five minutes or so per hour. Better to ignore such an arbitrarily decided closing of the gates than be late for work or to meet a client.

Knowing people’s reactions, trains also tend to travel slowly over such busy level crossings, making it even safer for people to cut under closed barriers, and hence goes on the merry dance of counterproductive Japanese safety overkill. At times it’s almost as bad as my own country’s “health and safety culture”…


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