How to Survive a Fall onto Subway Tracks

Survive a Fall onto Subway Tracks

Each year more than 100 people are impacted by subway tracks in New York City alone.

The majority of these 100-200 people suffer some form of injury and a large percentage of these injuries prove life-threatening or immediately fatal. In 2016, 48 out of 168 people (roughly 29%) who came into contact with subway tracks died, many of whom gruesomely. 

Although an unknown number of these fatalities are the cause of successful suicide attempts, there are also those unfortunate accidents that make up the vast majority. If you find yourself in one of these situations, there are few things you’ll need to do.

Why Are Subway Tracks So Dangerous?

It’s not necessarily that subway tracks are inherently unsafe, rather that so many people have near encounters with them on a daily basis. In New York City, the subway was used more than 1.757 billion times, which brings the mortality rate to roughly two out of every one hundred million people.

However, because of the fact that so many people so frequently use the subway, the odds are far more real than this infinitesimally small number might suggest.

Climbing Back to Safety

It’s happened! You’ve fallen onto the subway tracks and a train is less than a minute away. What do you do now?

Step 1: Avoid the “Third Rail”

The third rail is exactly what it sounds like: the third rail on the track. Often, this is the rail that is farthest away from the platform and covered by some kind of wooden board. This rail typically carries 425 volts of electricity, more than ten times the amount needed to kill a person.

Step 2: Ask for Help

If somebody else is on the platform, ask them to pull you back up. Make a scene, make as much noise as possible to draw people’s attention, and call for help. Hopefully, somebody will be strong enough to lift you up and off the track.

Step 3: Tuck Away

Some tracks have little alcoves beside or beneath the track. Check to make sure there is no hazard tape on them, as that means “no clearance.” Hiding in there could potentially save your life.

Step 4: Run

Most platforms have access points at the ends of the station. Consider running to the end of the platform opposite the direction from which the train is coming.

Step 5: Lie Down

This option should only be used as an absolute last resort because it rarely works. Few people are small enough to fit between the bottom carriage of the train and the tracks without being sliced to bits, dragged, or electrocuted. However, any odds, no matter how small, are better than a 0% chance of survival.


If you commit these five survival steps to memory, then you will have a much better chance of surviving a close encounter of the third (rail) kind. Hopefully, you’ll never find yourself in this situation, but when your life depends on it, it’s always better to be prepared than to be surprised.


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