"This research is a wonderful example of taking what our physicians see every day in the hospital and applying a broader scientific view to uncover a troubling societal problem that needs greater awareness," says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "I hope that these results will help to significantly reduce incidence of injuries and lead us to a better understanding of how such injuries occur and how we can prevent them."
Dr. Lichenstein and his colleagues noted two likely phenomena associated with these injuries and deaths: distraction and sensory deprivation. The distraction caused by the use of electronic devices has been coined "inattentional blindness," in which multiple stimuli divide the brain's mental resource allocation. In cases of headphone-wearing pedestrian collisions with vehicles, the distraction is intensified by sensory deprivation, in which the pedestrian's ability to hear a train or car warning signal is masked by the sounds produced by the portable electronic device and headphones.
Dr. Lichenstein says the study was initiated after reviewing a tragic pediatric death where a local teen died crossing railroad tracks. The teen was noted to be wearing headphones and did not avoid the oncoming train despite auditory alarms. Further review revealed other cases not only in Maryland but in other states too. "As a pediatric emergency physician and someone interested in safety and prevention, I saw this as an opportunity to -- at minimum -- alert parents of teens and young adults of the
|Contact: Karen Lancaster|
University of Maryland Medical Center