Why are elevator doors so stubborn?

30Jul10

For whatever reason, I’ve always assumed that elevators have a safety feature that prevents the doors from crushing people. In other words, if someone gets in the way of the doors while they’re closing, the doors will open up to avoid the obstruction. But how much force does it actually take to trigger this safeguard?

My experience with this matter is rather limited, since I never try to run into closing elevators. However, I sometimes have to fend off doors when they begin to shut after I’m already halfway into the elevator car. This usually happens because the people who just exited took so long that the elevator starts closing before anyone new can get inside. And when I push against the inside edge of the elevator door with my hand, it’s rather shocking how much force is needed to make the doors reverse their direction. If a person somehow got stuck in there, they could suffer some serious injuries before the safety mechanism kicked in.

In any case, I bet a lot of people assume the doors are smart enough to open with the slightest bit of pressure, when the reality is that you have to really push back to avoid getting caught in the middle. Better messaging is clearly needed to help align expectations with reality. A little diagram showing a stick figure being hit by the door, along with some text explaining that getting in the way may cause injuries, should get the point across.

Frankly, I don’t understand why it takes so much effort before the safety mechanisms kick in. But until every elevator has an impact-free way to detect obstructions — like using infrared sensors — the best solution is to remind people not to get stuck there in the first place.



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