Those of you chronic headphone/earphone wearers might want to listen up – a University of Maryland study has found that cases of pedestrians wearing headphones or earphones being injured or killed by oncoming vehicles has tripled since 2004.
The study reviewed 116 cases of pedestrian-related accidents wherein the injured or killed pedestrian was using headphones or earphones. Of those 116, 70% resulted in the death of the pedestrian. Young adults and males were found to be the most at-risk, with both categories representing two-thirds of all accidents surveyed. One-third of all accidents featured some sort of warning sound made by the driver of the car or train, which was not heard by the pedestrian wearing headphones. In a particularly grisly stat that sheds light on how far noise cancellation technology has come, 55% of all accidents surveyed involved trains.
The study tabbed two problems with headphones on the street – distraction and sensory deprivation. While sensory deprivation deals with the obvious – you can’t hear that horn or train whistle while you’re blasting your Top 40 tunes – distraction refers to a problem that might not have been thought about as much. It’s what you might term being “in the zone” – being so focused on the music that the rest of the world tends to fade away without the listener even realizing it. This is especially dangerous on routes that are frequently taken by the wearer, who is likely already on auto-pilot by virtue of habit, anyway.
So, if you’re a big fan of high-tech, noise cancelling headphones, take note – it’s hard to stop a car quickly, and if you’re walking over railroad tracks – well, I don’t think I need to tell you how that one might turn out.