We’ve all witnessed or been party to it—someone walking into a wall or another person because he or she was too distracted by a phone to pay attention to the surroundings. The Japanese have even coined a term for it: Aruki Sumaho.

Comical as these scenes may seem—like something out of a modern day “Three Stooges”—in Japan, “smartphone walking” has become a serious safety concern. As many as 18 people stumbled onto train railways in 2011 while preoccupied by a phone, and this year a young boy fell off a train platform in Tokyo while looking at his screen.

Although some perpetrators acknowledge that staring at a screen makes “you lose a sense of what’s around you,” others argue that they can’t finish their work if they don’t check their emails while on the go.

As a response to the ongoing incidents caused by smartphone walking, companies and government institutions are creating Aruki Sumaho policies and warning campaigns, according to the Mainichi Daily News:

East Japan Railway Co. ran an announcement campaign through public addresses on trains in June and July encouraging people to stand still while using phones on platforms. Tokyo Metro, the operator of a subway network in Tokyo, is also cautioning passengers that it is “dangerous to walk while using smartphones” through train announcements and posters. Telecommunications companies have also established new policies. On Aug. 5, NTT Docomo erected notice boards around the east exit of Japan’s busiest station, JR Shinjuku, warning that “Smartphone walking is dangerous.” The NTT Docomo campaign manager said “complaints to ‘stop smartphone walking’ have increased sharply in recent years.”

One of the wittier warning signs reads, “Walking while using a smartphone is dangerous… But those people probably didn’t see this announcement.”

The problem isn’t unique to Japan. Glance around and you’ll see accidents happening all over the place thanks to Aruki Sumaho. And, if you’re reading this on your smartphone now, make sure to look both ways.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi


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