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Headphone-Wearing Pedestrians at Risk

Headphone-Wearing Pedestrians at Risk

Injuries to pedestrians wearing headphones have more than tripled in six years, say researchers from the University of Maryland. Headphone-wearing pedestrians often cannot hear train whistles or car horns, leading to fatalities in almost three-quarters of such cases.

“Everybody is aware of the risk of cell phones and texting in automobiles, but I see more and more teens distracted with the latest devices and headphones in their ears,” said lead author of the study Richard Lichenstein, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of pediatric emergency medicine research at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “Unfortunately as we make more and more enticing devices, the risk of injury from distraction and blocking out other sounds increases.”

Distraction and sensory deprivation while using electronic devices is called “inattentional blindness.” The study was undertaken after reviewing the tragic death of a local teen who was killed as he crossed railroad tracks. He was wearing headphones.

“As a pediatric emergency physician and someone interested in safety and prevention I saw this as an opportunity to — at minimum — alert parents of teens and young adults of the potential risk of wearing headphones where moving vehicles are present,” said Dr. Lichenstein.

Researchers studied case reports from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Google News Archives, and Westlaw Campus Research databases. They reviewed 116 cases from 2004 to 2011 which involved injured headphone-wearing pedestrians.

Sixty-eight percent of the victims were males and 67 percent were under age 30. More than 50 percent of the accidents involved trains and 29 percent of the vehicles involved reported sounding a warning prior to the accident.

Reference: Lichenstein R, Smith D, Ambrose J, Moody L.  “Headphone use and pedestrian injury and death in the United States: 2004-2011.” Injury Prevention. Published online January 17, 2012.  doi:10.1136/injuryprev-2011-040161.

Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Thinkstock

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Ann Pietrangelo

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis and Catch That Look: Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. She is a freelance writer and member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

68 comments

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2:46AM PDT on May 22, 2012

Monster Headphones and iphone 4 S as... Has become a trend and

fashion,http://www.headphoneedle.com

1:03PM PST on Mar 5, 2012

I agree wearing headphones while walking does put you at risk, but this applies to motorists and cyclists also.

2:31PM PST on Feb 8, 2012

Silly!

9:46PM PST on Jan 28, 2012

Common sense.

11:44AM PST on Jan 26, 2012

Personally, I feel that if a person is injured because they aren't paying attention to what they're doing, and then try to sue for injuries they sustained, do not deserve to win, since it's their own fault in many, if not most, cases.

My personal gripe is parking lots at malls and grocery stores where even when a driver is being extremely cautious and paying attention to pedestrians, the pedestrians walk right in front of cars because they think they own the parking lots and that everyone has to stop for them. They'll be walking along with their heads down and don't even bother to look either direction to see if a car is headed their way. I've lost track of how many times this has happened to me, and those people are just lucky I pay attention to what's going on around me.

And yet when I worked for law firms over the years, it was amazing how many lawsuits were filed and won by the injured for their own stupidity and carelessness.

The same thing applies to those talking on cell phones, wearing earbuds or ear phones or in general just not paying attention.

10:10AM PST on Jan 23, 2012

interesting.

3:32AM PST on Jan 22, 2012

Drivers, cyclists, pedestrians . . . you are all at added risk using headphones and mobiles. Concentrate on what you are doing, you are not clever enough to divide your attention even if you think you are. And if you think you are, you really are a danger to others.

10:30PM PST on Jan 21, 2012

By knowingly taking life at risk.Should be avoided.

5:24PM PST on Jan 21, 2012

.....I suspect if you have your headphone volume up so high you can't hear a car its damaging your ears at the very least....as well as putting you in obvious danger......

10:39AM PST on Jan 21, 2012

At Chad A: How can you safely read and walk? Why must you be reading or listening to something anyway while walking, jogging, or riding a bike? What's wrong with just being present in your surroundings and in your own thoughts, besides the fact that it's overall a safety issue?

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