The New Risk of Walking With Headphones

We talk to teens and young adults about the risks of distracted driving, but not about distracted walking.

DAmore_Law_Group_Pedestrian_safety_blogNew evidence shows a drastic uptick in the number of injuries and deaths where the injured pedestrian was wearing earbuds or headphones. The study, which appears in the journal Injury Prevention, shows the majority –more than two-thirds– of those injured and killed were young males. The majority of the vehicles involved in the accidents were trains.

The study authors pointed to sensory deprivation and distraction as the mostly likely causes – a logical conclusion. It’s no surprise to safety advocates that listening to music and texting while walking is dangerous. Doing so means you are audiologically and visually removing yourself from your immediate surroundings, a behavior that is fundamentally unsafe.

Unlike cars and trucks that can come to quick stop, trains have almost no chance of being able to avoid a distracted pedestrian on the tracks.

Last year a pedestrian from Hillsboro stepped in front of a MAX train while wearing headphones. Before that, a 24-year-old young woman from Beaverton was wearing headphones, and tragically killed by a train she did not see or hear. Operation Lifesaver reports that a person or vehicle is struck by a train approximately every 3 hours in the United States.

Learn more about the pedestrian headphone study here, or at least remember to remove your headphones and look up from your phone anytime you use designated railroad crossings.


Image: Danilo Rizzuti /