During the past school year, I have witnessed two dangerously close-encounters involving pedestrians and drivers at a crosswalk. In both cases, the pedestrians were students crossing a major street while wearing ear buds. While I stopped at the crosswalk, allowing the student to pass, I could see the oncoming traffic to my right in the rear-view mirror. Each time, when I realized that the oncoming car was going too fast to stop at the crosswalk and the student was oblivious of the car – I began frantically honking my horn, trying to get one or both of their attention. In one case, the car came to a screeching halt as the student passed and in the other, the student stopped in the crosswalk as the car barreled past – both merely avoiding a possibly fatal collision!
Road safety research shows that traffic accidents, including those caused by pedestrian inattention, are the single biggest killer of young people in the world. Nationally, the statistics surrounding pedestrian fatalities in traffic accidents are staggering – the Department of Transportation State Highway Administration reports that on average, a pedestrian is killed in a traffic crash every 120 minutes and injured in a traffic crash every 8 minutes – that’s an average of 12 pedestrian deaths each day. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrian fatalities are up for the first time in years – 4,280 in 2010 – up from the 4,109 in 2009. Most notably, nearly 20% of these deaths were at marked intersections.
Dr. Richard Lichenstein, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine Research at the University of Maryland Medical Center, found that injuries to headphone-wearing pedestrians struck by cars and trains more than tripled since 2004. In many cases, the cars or trains are sounding horns that the pedestrians cannot hear, leading to fatalities in nearly three-quarters of cases. Dr. Lichenstein’s research found:
- The number of deaths of people wearing headphones increased from 16 in 2004-2005 to 47 in 2010-2011
- The majority were male, 68%, and 67% were under the age of 30
- 89% of cases occurred in urban counties
For more details regarding this study, click here.
With the rising popularity of auditory technology and headphones, it’s important for pedestrians to be aware of their surroundings – and for drivers to be mindful of potentially distracted pedestrians. My hope is that by raising awareness around this issue – we can become more conscientious and help make an impact.
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