Pedestrians with Headphones More Likely to be Injured
People who walk to work or school wearing ear buds or headphones face a greater risk for injury or death because they are less aware of their surroundings. Pedestrian injuries in the U.S. have tripled since 2004, researchers say.
University of Maryland researchers looked at data from the U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and search results from Google. They focused on deaths and injuries from January 2004 through June 2011 among pedestrians wearing headphones.
They found 116 cases during that time period. From 2004 to 2005, 16 injuries or deaths occurred. But the number shot to 47 - about a three-fold increase - from 2010 to 2011.
"These are pedestrians getting hit by cars, trains, trucks, vans, buses and things like that," says lead researcher Richard Lichenstein, M.D. "About 70 percent of the injuries were fatal."
About two-thirds of victims were under 30 years of age, and the most common accident, occurring in 55 percent of the cases, was being hit by a train. Most of the accidents happened in cities, with only 12 percent occurring in rural areas.
In three out of four cases, bystanders had actually seen the victim wearing headphones. The sound coming from those headphones likely masked outside noise, because in 29 percent of the accidents, horns or sirens had been sounded just before the victim was hit.
"People wearing headphones need to be conscious of the outside environment and risk of moving vehicles, because not only are you distracted by the music, but also the sounds of traffic or horns or sirens are blocked," Dr. Lichenstein says.
The study was published in the journal Injury Prevention.
Dr. LIchenstein says the way to reduce the risk is simple. "Be cognizant of the environment. Know there is risk out there. It's not a great idea to be distracted and it's not a great idea to shut out those sounds that may help you live another day," he says.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.