Listen up, mobile music lovers. Pedestrians wearing headphones are far more likely to be hit by moving vehicles – with such incidents more than tripling in six years.
The reason: they can’t hear car horns, approaching trains or other warnings before it’s too late, according to new research from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
The most likely victims? Young adult males.
"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 Dr. Richard Lichenstein, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Unfortunately as we make more and more enticing devices, the risk of injury from distraction and blocking out other sounds increases."
To reach their conclusions, published in the journal Injury Prevention. Lichenstein and his colleagues studied cases from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and other databases for reports of pedestrian injuries or fatalities from crashes involving trains or motor vehicles.
Researchers reviewed 116 accident cases from 2004 to 2011 in which injured pedestrians were documented to be using headphones. Lichenstein and his team said that the distraction of the music causes "inattentional blindness," where multiple stimuli fed to the brain divide its mental resource allocation. Among their findings:
• Seventy percent of the 116 accidents resulted in death to the pedestrian.
• Two-thirds of victims were male (68 percent) and under the age of 30 (67 percent).
• More than half of the vehicles involved in the accidents were trains (55 percent), and nearly a third (29 percent) of the vehicles reported sounding type of warning horn prior to the crash.
• The increased incidence of accidents over the years closely corresponds to rising popularity of auditory technologies with headphones.