Wearing headphones while walking hazardous

By Shayna Brouker • Published: April 10th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Headphones are taking another hit for being hazardous to your health … and not because blasting music into your ears can damage hearing. New research shows that headphones and walking can be a dangerous and even deadly combination, much like using a cell phone when driving.

A new study published in Injury Prevention found that pedestrians who pop earbuds in are at a greater risk of injury or death than those who walk without headphones. The number of injuries or deaths involving pedestrians, headphones and vehicles tripled from 2004 to 2010. The study also found that almost one-third of the victims hit by trains or cars didn’t hear the warning horns and sirens. Half of the incidents involved a train and almost ninety percent occurred in urban areas. Nearly three-fourths of the accidents were fatal, and men under the age of 30 were the most common victims.

The findings serve as a warning to head-in-the-clouds headphone-wearers to keep their eyes and ears open when walking near heavy traffic.

Researchers think a certain kind of distraction called “inattentional blindness” dulls the interpretation of sound and detracts attention away from almost everything except the task in front of you, like calling a friend or searching for a new song on your iPod. Environmental isolation, or simply not paying attention to what’s going on around you, could also cause mishaps. Both factors seem to be the same culprit behind car accidents, too.

So whether you’re walking on your own two legs or driving a two-ton vehicle, it’s best to concentrate on the task at hand. Keep your eyes and ears tuned to what is going on around you instead of on your favorite songs. This should help keep you and others safe. Stay aware and stay alive.