ADVICE: Should you ever fall or get pushed into the subway tracks…

Image via Gawker.
Image via Gawker.

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s horrific. On Dec. 3, a man was pushed into the subway tracks and killed. Here are some tips from my friend Rich, who as a former graffiti writer, has been on the subway tracks, as well as inside the tunnels:

If you happen to fall or get pushed into the subway tracks:

– If you don’t hear a train coming down the tunnel, and don’t see any lights, you can try to climb out of the tracks.
The height is a lot higher than you may think, and will take some real effort. Hopefully someone can help you out. Take off any backpacks/bulky coats (again, assuming you have time. There is a difference between falling into a subway track at 5:30 pm and 3am).

-If you can make it to either end of the track, it might be a little easier to climb out using step railings. Go to the end that the first car would end up at, since you have a better chance of the train stopping by then.

– If the train is barreling down the tunnel, and you have no time to climb out, don’t freak out and keep reaching out, or if someone who is trying to pull you up is not able to, make them let go. You do not want to be caught half-way up as the train crushes you between platform and subway car.

What you want to do is lie down FLAT and STRAIGHT, AGAINST the wall UNDER the subway platform. Don’t curl up, and this will push you out closer to the train.
There is a relatively good amount of space under there.

The train will likely stop, and likely not move until rescue teams arrive, though perhaps some MTA workers might try to come to you to make sure you’re ok.

Don’t try to crawl out unless you are directed to do so in a safe manner.

Yes, it’s dirty and disgusting down there, but it’s a lot better than being crushed into human Spam.

Do not try to lie down in between the track rails to let the train go over you.
While there have been cases of people surviving this way, there are mechanical components underneath the train carriage that can snag up on your coat or backpack and drag you, causing you serious harm.

As you all know, there is a live 3rd rail, usually against the opposite wall from the platform. The electricity on this rail will KILL you.

But if for some reason, you end up stuck on this side of the track when the train is barreling down the tunnel, the rail usually has a wooden beam over it that is *safe* to step on.
(By *safe*, I mean it’s certainly better than stepping on the metal of the 3rd rail itself).

Hopefully, this beam is structurally sound.

You will also notice there are indentations on the wall. If you stand up super pressed against the wall in these gaps, you have a much better chance of not being hit.

(If you are wearing a backpack/purse, remove it. Throw it away. It’s not worth getting tangled over).

— Extra tip:
If you are trying to hold the door for your kid/friend, etc, most people’s arm strength cannot stop the doors from closing. You can get caught and dragged.

Use your foot (hopefully with a sneaker or boot, and not heels on it) at the bottom of the open door. This provides a lot more friction to stop the doors from closing than trying to use your hands/arms.

— Extra extra tip:
If you are inside the subway tunnel, it is far more deadly in there, as the gaps for safety are much much smaller.
It’s a lot more difficult to see where the 3rd rails are, and the trains will be zooming by a lot faster.

If you are in there for some reason (which I can’t imagine why, unless you have a can of silver spray paint or are escaping from zombies),
some paths have elevated platforms against the wall. Lying flat against the wall on these platforms will help with you not getting hit, but it’s a close shave.

If you don’t extend beyond the edge of the platform (again, watch out with that backpack), you should be ok. Beware of the “suction” the train forms when it zooms by you. It can pull you into the moving train.

Though I’m 6’2 and 230 lbs, I don’t sleep on the subway platform.
Whether it’s kids/gangs acting stupid, or some mentally deranged individual having a violent fit, I don’t sleep on anyone. Even with headphones on, I keep an eye out, and watch out for who is around me.

The man who was recently killed by that train could have survived if he just lied down beneath the platform.

He probably had no idea, and thought the only chance was to climb out.

A little info can save your life.


18 thoughts on “ADVICE: Should you ever fall or get pushed into the subway tracks…

  1. some of the advice in your post is dangerous:

    Do not try to duct under the subway platform. all subway cars have 3rd rail contact shoes on both sides of the train, and if any shoe (on any car of the train) is contacting the 3rd rail, all shoes are energized.

    Do not step on the 3rd rail protection board ever. Step over it. the protection board is not meant for people to step on, and if it breaks when you step on it, then you’re on the 3rd rail and then dead.

    if those niches in the wall have red and white strips in them, it is not safe to stand there. (it could be yellow and black and it may say “do not clear here”). When standing in a niche or between columns, stand up straight, lean against 1 side of the niche and press your hand up against the other side, this way you can be sure that you are stable and that no part of your body is hanging out into the track area.

    The trench in middle of the tracks is actually safer than under the platform. if you can fit in the trench, but below the level of the rails you won’t get hit. (only as last resort!).

    Should you find yourself on the tracks, the best thing to do is to not try to climb back on the platform but go to the end of the platform in the direction the train travels. (look both ways down tracks. go in the direction you can see the train signals lights on your right)

    Of course, ounce of prevention better than pound of cure: every time you step onto the subway platform, look for possible safe places to get to if you fall onto the tracks, know which direction to go to get to the end of the platform.

    Stand away from the platform edge until the train stops.

    lean against a column while waiting for the train.

    If there is commotion that’s making you feel unsafe or if someone is making you feel unsafe, get off the platform and go to the mezzanine or exit the subway station.

      1. Shoto

        I definitely agree with Tigro, its “safer” between the two passing by than against the wall of the platform.

    1. Author is 100% correct. Lie in the center face down in the center trench. Remember the “subway hero?” He laid on TOP of a guy and the train still went right over them both. There is a lot of clearance.

  2. lu

    the sentence structure is a little confusing in: “What you want to do is lie down FLAT and STRAIGHT, AGAINST the wall UNDER the subway platform.”

    so are you lying down flat on the ground? or are you pressed up flat, standing up, against the wall?

    1. I think he’s trying to say you lie flat against the wall. Lying flat assumes you’d lie straight, but hey, he banged this out early yesterday morning. Writing as if he’s speaking. All good.

  3. Pingback: Seasonal cocktails and more in the QNYC Evening Edition for Wednesday December 5, 2012 | Queens NYC

  4. OniSec3

    not every platform has space as described to get out the way of the train, or even the hotshoe/3rd rail connector, but most do, and is enough to avoid being struct. Id take my chances tho against the side wall in a cubby by the 3rd rail 😉

  5. M

    Am I correct; that one could stand by the dividing crosswork which seperates the two different directions which trains travel. In the New York Post photo at the right side of the frame, it appears that the man could have run to the other side of the trench where trains run in the opposite direction. Assuming one could avoid stepping on the third rail, wouldn’t that have been the best approach?

  6. Nunya Bidness

    Based on what I have read so far, the best way to handle this problem is to ALWAYS walk to the end of the platform, to catch one of the first couple of cars. That way, if you fall or are pushed onto the tracks, you are not far from the point where the front of the train normally stops (unless it is an express and you are unlucky enough to be out on the express rails).

  7. Appreciated the suggestions but after reading the comments, I’m thoroughly confused. So, do you lie against the wall on the platform side, try to flatten in the middle or do something on the 3rd rail side (can’t imagine that’s a good idea)?

  8. Pingback: Random | Annotary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s