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After the Fukuchiyama Line Derailment Accident

   107 lives were tragically lost in the Fukuchiyama Line Derailment Accident on April 25, 2005. Just as the accident occurred, I was on the Sanyo bullet train passing near the spot. I became aware of the accident when I transferred at Niihama Station, where crowds of people were glued to an overhead television monitor. At that time, the news was only reporting that 10 people had died in the accident.

   In the following years, at the Association for the Study of Failure's 2007 Summer Meeting in Osaka we had the honor of hearing a family member of a victim speak about his experience. [ Meeting announcement | Report (members only)]. The speaker then requested that the Osaka Subcommittee read through the accident report and provide their own thoughts. The subcommittee undertook reading the detailed official report about the accident, which I revisited again for preparing an article in the 2005 ASF Annals of Failure. The findings were presented at the 2008 Osaka Summer Meeting ().

   This was an extremely tragic accident, and the suffering of the victims and their families is beyond measure. Our hope is that, in at least some small way, we can help reduce the possibility of a similar accident occurring.
   However, judging from post-accident reports regarding accident prevention measures, it seems that it could be the case that there is too much emphasis being placed on improving the train drivers' concentration and attentiveness. It is simply not possible to avoid this kind of accident by relying on the power of human attentiveness alone. We might look to another field in the world of passenger transportation: commercial airlines operate on the premise that there will be occasions in which pilots will be unable to handle their equipment in normal ways, and they prepare safety measures accordingly. At this time, then, might it not be best to return to and rethink the origins of the accident?

[Original article in Japanese by Kenji IINO (3/17/09),
translated by Carla TAKAKI and posted (3/16/10)]

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