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Injuries to Pedestrians Wearing Headphones Tripled Since 2004
Date:1/17/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Folks who walk to work or school while listening to music via headphones may want to unplug, with a new U.S. study finding injuries to this group of people tripling since 2004.

The reason, University of Maryland researchers say, is that use of iPods and other MP3 players makes people much less aware of their environment, including oncoming traffic.

"MP3 usage is common in young adults and teenagers and we found that people wearing headphones are at risk of getting hit and having injury or death," said lead researcher Dr. Richard Lichenstein, an associate professor of pediatrics in Pediatric Emergency Medicine Research at the University of Maryland Children's Hospital.

"These are pedestrians getting hit by cars, trains, trucks, vans, buses and things like that," he said. "About 70 percent of the injuries were fatal and more than 50 percent of the victims were hit by trains."

The report was published in the Jan. 16 online edition of Injury Prevention.

For the study, Lichenstein's team used the U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Google to find data on deaths and injuries among pedestrians wearing headphones from January 2004 through June 2011.

During this time, they found 116 such events reported. In 2004-05 just 16 such cases were noted, but that rate rose nearly three-fold to 47 during 2010-2011, the researchers report.

About two-thirds of victims were under 30 years of age, and the most common accident (55 percent) was being hit by a train. Most such accidents happened in cities, with only 12 percent occurring in rural areas.

In 70 percent of cases the accident proved fatal, and in three out of four, bystanders had actually seen the victim wearing headphones just prior to the accident. The sound coming from those headphones likely mask
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