Study Points to iPods and Other Entertainment Devices Utilizing Headphones as Source of Pedestrian Injuries

We’re not ones to begrudge anyone their choice of entertainment or mode of personal escape from the daily rigors and stresses of modern life. Certainly it’s no surprise that living in cities such as Baltimore, Annapolis, Gaithersburg and Washington, D.C., can push many individuals to seek a pleasant source of diversion from the so-called rat race. But, regardless of the reason for choosing to isolate oneself from the everyday world, a recent study suggests doing just that — in the middle of a bustling urban environment — may actually be dangerous to one’s health; deadly, in fact.

As Maryland auto injury lawyers, we’ve represented numerous victims of car, truck and motorcycle accidents in their quest to recover costs associated with traffic accidents caused by another negligent party. Since a percentage of automobile and trucking accident cases involve people either on foot or riding bicycles, we found it interesting that the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine in cooperation with the University of Maryland Medical Center produced a study naming headphones and personal entertainment devices as leading contributors to pedestrian-related traffic injuries.

According to news reports, the study concluded that pedestrians who use various electronic devices that utilize headphones to listen to audio content have experienced a near tripling of their injury rate over the past six years.

The researchers apparently believe that their results of their study show pedestrian accidents were due to an individual being at once distracted by his or her mobile device and having the sound of that device block or mask ambient sound around them, such as the warning systems used on various modes of transportation (i.e. car horns, train whistles, crossing gate claxons, etc.)

The amazing thing is that this is news, since to almost anyone who considers the effects of using headphones or earbuds in public the downside would appear to be almost completely safety-related. Although this seems and obvious conclusion, University of Maryland School of Medicine and University of Maryland Medical Center researchers put together a study that actually shows how dangerous this activity can really be.

For example, while most people already know that cellphone use — not to mention texting — in an automobile are risky behaviors, more and more teenagers are becoming distracted by the latest mobile technology AND using these with headphones on. The trouble, according to researchers, is that as technology allows more and more enticing devices and program, the risk of injury due to distraction and the blocking of ambient sound is only going to increase over time.

In the study, researchers looked at serious pedestrian accident cases involving headphone use from 2004 to 2011; these included injuries and or fatalities from automobile crashes or railroad collisions, as reported by various databases including the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, Westlaw Campus Research and Google News Archives.

During this eight year period, the researchers looked at total of 116 accident cases. What they found was revealing: Just under 70 percent of pedestrians who were injured or killed as a result of wearing headphones were male; 67 percent were under age 30; more than half of the vehicles involved in headphone-related collisions were trains; 29 percent of the vehicles involved utilized a horn or other audible warning system alert pedestrians to their presence; and finally, almost 75 percent of headphone-related accidents resulted in a fatality.

We won’t draw any conclusions ourselves — it should be clear enough for anyone to draw his own. What we do want to ask is, How long before common sense makes a comeback and people start taking fewer risks with their lives? It would seem that there may need to be another three-fold increase in accidents to get anyone’s attention on this; likely, because anyone wearing headphones is likely not listening….

Headphones Cause Pedestrian Injuries to Triple Over a 6-Year Period,, January 18, 2012

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