In one video, a man appears to check a wristwatch — in what would seem a purposefully exaggerated fashion — as he walks directly off the subway platform and onto the tracks at 34th Street Station last month.
In another video, a woman, checking repeatedly for an inbound subway train at the Ellsworth Station by leaning off the platform in a foreshadowing manner, eventually plunges to the tracks when she carelessly steps off the yellow warning strip.
Those victims and two others are what SEPTA described as "distracted commuting," which was the focus of the transit agency's second annual Safety Awareness Day held this week.
SEPTA workers were out across the system Wednesday to warn riders of the dangers that not paying attention to their surroundings can have in the course of a commute. They noted the particular problem of riders "being too connected to their smartphones, tablets and other hand-held devices."
“Over the last year, we have responded to a few track falls each month," said Scott Sauer, SEPTA's director of system safety. “That is especially troubling on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines, where not only is the drop from the platform to the track about four feet, there is an electrified third rail. In many cases, our trains are just minutes from entering the stations where the falls had just occurred.”
SEPTA released four videos showing several different ways people can hurt themselves — either accidentally or through bad choices. (See the VIDEOS below.)
One of the videos shows a man climbing onto the tracks to retreive an item that fell from his grocery bag. The footage ends cryptically: The man, trying to climb out of the track area back onto the platform, falls out of view of the surveillance video and is not seen again.
In the case of the woman who steps unwittingly off the platform, she can be seen in the footage being rescued by numerous firefighters and EMS workers. When she fell, she came in contact with the electrified "third rail" and was shocked, SEPTA said.
“These incidents are easily preventable,” said Sauer. “If you must use a phone or other device at a station or bus stop, stand away from the edge of the platform or curb. When you are waiting for the train, stand behind the yellow line. Looking down the platform does not make the train come faster. You can still stand behind the line and see and hear the train coming.”
To complement the Safety Blitzes, SEPTA has launched a safety website geared toward young riders and debuted a video starring the Phillie Phanatic. The agency also touts its systemwide safety day as the only one of its kind in the country.