‘iPod Oblivion’ triples pedestrian casualties

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Headphone use linked to traffic accidents among youths

By Clara Lock

The number of pedestrians killed or severely injured in traffic-related accidents has tripled over the last six years, according to a U.S. study.

Out of the 116 cases examined, a third were youths under 18 while another third were under 30.

The study, conducted by the online journal Injury Prevention and published today, found that in more than a third of the cases, horns or sirens were sounded to alert the victims before they were struck.

It also highlighted the isolating effects of headphone use, which has been dubbed ‘iPod oblivion’. This occurs when an external distraction reduces the amount of attention the brain pays to external stimuli.

“Sensory deprivation that results from using headphones with electronic devices may be a unique problem in pedestrian incidents, where auditory cues can be more important than visual ones,” researchers wrote in the journal, which is published by the British Medical Journal Group.

And the practice of plugging in on the go is not new.

Another study by Australian insurance company NRMA, published in Queensland last year, revealed that more than 70% of youths listen to their mp3 players while walking along the road, a worrying trend that looks set to grow.

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