The number of headphone-wearing pedestrians seriously injured or killed near roadways and railways has tripled in six years, according to a U.S. study.
The number of cases rose from 16 in 2004-2005 to 47 in 2010-2011, according to the research published today in the online journal Injury Prevention. Thirty-four of the 116 total cases in the study specifically mention horns or sirens being sounded before the victims were struck, wrote researchers including Richard Lichenstein at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children.
The study illustrates the dangers of using devices such as music players with headphones, they wrote. While the risk of using mobile phones and other devices while driving is well documented, little is known about distraction associated with wearing headphones while walking, the authors wrote.
“Sensory deprivation that results from using headphones with electronic devices may be a unique problem in pedestrian incidents, where auditory cues can be more important than visual ones,” they wrote.
Researchers pored over reports from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Google news archives and the Westlaw Campus Research database from Jan. 1, 2004 to June 1, 2011.
Limitations of the study included relying on media reporting, “which likely over-publishes tragic events but vastly under-publishes non-fatal cases,” according to the study. Suicidal intentions, substance abuse, mental illness and driver error may also have had a role in some of the pedestrian injuries and fatalities, the researchers said.
Of the 116 cases studied, more than a third of the people were younger than age 18 and two-thirds were younger than 30.