Listen Up: Accidents Rising Among Pedestrians Wearing Headphones

Blasting music through headphones might make long walks to class or work more enjoyable. But it also can distract from potentially fatal hazards.

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The number of deaths caused by seemingly unobtrusive headphones has tripled

Whether it’s a frenzied hike to work or a meandering stroll around town, walking is often improved when there’s music in the air. Or, more commonly, when there’s music blaring directly into your ears, keeping you from avoiding potentially fatal hazards.

The number of pedestrians killed or seriously injured while wearing headphones has tripled in the last six years, a recent study found. The 16 cases in 2004-2005 spiked to 47 in 2010-2011, according to the study’s chief researchers at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children. The Daily Mail reported that two thirds of the victims were men under age 30, and one in 10 victims was under 18.

(MORE: Study: Car Crash Rates Increased Despite ‘Texting While Driving’ Bans)

Concerns about texting while walking have received national attention and prompted possible bans last year, but the distinct issue of using headphones while walking has made fewer headlines. According to the study’s authors, the dangers of using mobile phones and other devices while driving are also well documented.

“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,” the researchers wrote. Bloomberg reported that the study incorporated data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Google News archives and a campus research database.

In 70% of the 116 collisions this past year, the victim died. In a quarter of the cases, a warning that the victim most likely couldn’t hear, like a horn, was sounded before the accident.

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