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Innovation

Walking around your city? Ditch the headphones

The number of headphone-wearing pedestrians who have been either seriously injured or killed near roads and trains has tripled in the last six years.
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor on

There's a disturbing new study out in the online journal Injury Prevention. It found that the number of headphone-wearing pedestrians who have been either seriously injured or killed near roads and trains has tripled in the last six years.

The number of cases rose from 16 in 2004-2005 to 47 in 2010-2011. Of the 116 accidents studied, the victims are mostly young people in urban areas. More than a third were under 18 and two-thirds were under 30, while almost 90 percent of the total accidents happened in urban counties.

Why are headphones especially dangerous for pedestrians?

“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 authors wrote.

There are a few things cities can do to prevent these accidents, or at least lower the rate of death. One would be to ban headphones for pedestrians -- much like bans on texting for drivers. The other would be to make roads more pedestrian friendly by building streets using traffic-calming strategies. Research shows that the number of deaths dramatically increase from 5 percent when a car strikes a pedestrian at 20 miles per hour to 80 percent when a car is travelling at 40 mph.

That said, even the most walkable city can't prevent you from walking out in front of a bus because you're distracted and can't hear.

So next time you're navigating a city on foot, ditch the headphones.

Photo: jamesjustin/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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