Death by headphones

January 18, 2012

Researchers from University of Maryland School of Medicine and The University of Maryland Medical Center find that as use of mobile devices increase, so does the risk of injury from distraction and blocking out other sounds.

The research team studied case reports from databases, such as the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, for pedestrian injuries or fatalities from crashes involving trains or motor vehicles between 2004 and 2011. From there, cases involving headphone use were summarized.

From 2004 to 2011, 116 accident cases were reviewed in which pedestrians were reported to be wearing headphones. The analysis found that 70 percent of the 116 accidents resulted in death to the pedestrian. Science Daily reports that more than two thirds of the victims were male (68%) and under 30 years old (67%).

55 percent of the vehicles involved were trains and almost 29 percent of the vehicles reported sounding a warning horn prior to the crash. The researchers noted that distraction and sensory deprivation are the two phenomena likely to be associated with these incidents.

WebMD reports that the number of injuries corresponds to the rising popularity of iPods and other MP3 devices. Between 2004 and 2005, 16 injuries had been reported, and by 2010 to 2011, the number had jumped to 47.

Dr. Richard Lichenstein, lead study author and director of pediatric emergency medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center, says:

“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…Unfortunately as we make more and more enticing devices, the risk of injury from distraction and blocking out other sounds increases.”

The study is published in the journal Injury Prevention.


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