Serious injury risk from wearing headphones

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Over the past 6 years, the number of pedestrians suffering serious injury while wearing headphones or devices such as MP3 players has increased by 300%, according to US research.

In the US between 2004 and 2011, 116 people wearing headphones died or were seriously injured, rising from 16 in 2004-05. 89% of the accidents happened in urban areas, with more than half of the victims hit by trains. 81 of the 116 incidents led to fatalities.

Headphones could cause pedestrians to have a serious accident

The study identified men, young adults and teenagers as most at risk from serious injury while walking in the street or when their thoughts were otherwise elsewhere. Around 1 in 10 of cases were under 18.

Although mobile phones were not covered, the study found that wearing headphones may have directly contributed to many cases due to users' impaired capability to hear alerts. In 29% of the incidents, explicit warnings such as sirens, horns or shouts were sounded before the accident.

Arguing that using headphones with handheld devices could pose risks to pedestrians, particularly near moving vehicles, the study concluded that further research is needed to determine if and how headphone use compromises pedestrian safety.

Earlier studies showed that inattentional blindness (sometimes called 'iPod oblivion'), in which attention to external stimuli is reduced, can often affect people wearing headphones or when talking on mobile phones.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) acknowledges that it has no robust data about serious injury from headphone use in the UK. However, said Kevin Clinton, RoSPA's head of road safety, "We have heard of cases in which pedestrians have been knocked down while listening to headphones or talking on mobile phones."

"If you are using these devices while walking, RoSPA advises that you ensure you are not dangerously distracted and that you remain aware of what is happening around you."

If you are involved in an accident where you have been wearing headphones, it is likely that your claim for compensation may be challenged even if the accident was someone else’s fault. The law allows for damages to be reduced proportionately where an accident victim is partly to blame for the accident occurring. This is known as "contributory negligence". However, each case turns on its own facts and we recommend that you contact a Personal Injury Solicitor in the event of being injured in an accident, whether at work, on the road or in other circumstances.


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