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Deaths of Pedestrians Wearing Headphones Surges

The latter part of 2011 saw a larger-than-normal number of auto-pedestrian accidents in the Las Vegas metro area. (And they haven’t stopped in 2012.) These incidents prompted numerous discussions about how to keep pedestrians safe from harm while crossing streets in the valley. Some of the obvious solutions are waiting until vehicle traffic has stopped or moved out of the way, obeying traffic signals, and staying within marked crosswalks whenever possible.

But another way for pedestrians to stay safe is to pay attention and not be distracted by other things. Like, say, the music in their headphones.

A study published earlier this month by a Baltimore researcher reveals that the number of fatalities involving pedestrians wearing headphones tripled from 2004 to 2011. Incredibly, some 2/3 of the people who died were men under the age of 30.

The study, which was published in the U.K. journal Injury Prevention, encompassed pedestrians who were wearing headphones connected to music devices like iPods and other mp3 players (but not cell phones). The researcher claimed that these devices created what he called "inattentional blindness," which he defined as distractions that lower the ability of the brain to detect and process external stimuli.

There’s been a heavy focus on distracted driving in Las Vegas and across the country. The theory is simple: the more distracted that drivers are, the less they are paying attention to the world around them and the greater the likelihood is of them getting into an auto accident. Perhaps this study illustrates the pitfalls of "distracted walking," which can have the same tragic outcomes as distracted driving. But  at least distracted drivers are protected by the solid structures of their vehicles – whereas pedestrians have no external protection from vehicles that may strike them.