University of Maryland Study Shows Increased Risk of Pedestrian Injuries with Electronics Use

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center has found that the number of pedestrians killed or injured in traffic accidents while wearing headphones tripled over a six-year period beginning in 2004. The researchers examined records of accident reports maintained by online news archives like Google and Westlaw, as well as data obtained from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). The study was published in the January 16, 2012 online edition of the medical journal Injury Prevention.

The study identified 116 reported injuries or fatalities of pedestrians wearing headphones. They found that sixty-eight percent of the victims were male. Sixty-seven percent were under thirty years old. Fifty-five percent of the vehicles involved were trains, while most of the rest were automobiles. Only seventy-four percent of the reports explicitly stated that the victim was wearing headphones at the time of the accident. The remainder of the reports noted that the vehicle honked or sounded some sort of warning before the accident, suggesting that the pedestrian could not hear the warning. Seventy percent of the pedestrian accidents reviewed by the researchers resulted in the pedestrian’s death.

The number of pedestrians injured or killed in traffic or train accidents while wearing headphones tripled during the time period reviewed by the researchers. They found that sixteen injuries or deaths occurred in 2004, the first year reviewed. The last year reviewed, covering the period from 2010 to 2011, had forty-seven such accidents.

Two primary risks associated with headphone use by pedestrians became clear from the statistics. First is the risk of distraction, causing a pedestrian not to notice an imminent threat like an approaching car or train. The other is what the authors called “sensory deprivation,” or the inability of the pedestrian to hear an approaching vehicle or its warning sounds. The original inspiration for the study was reportedly the case of a Maryland teen who died after being struck by a train while crossing the tracks. Reports indicated the teen was wearing headphones and did not respond to warning sounds.

Drivers on Maryland roads have a duty of care to drive safely, obey traffic laws, and take reasonable measures to avoid accidents. This includes a duty to be mindful of pedestrians and give them the right-of-way under certain circumstances. Pedestrians also have a duty of care, though, to take reasonable measures to avoid accidents. This includes being mindful of traffic, staying out of the street except in designated crossing areas, and obeying traffic signals. This also includes staying off railroad tracks in almost all circumstances. In a claim for damages by a pedestrian injured by a car, train, or other vehicle, the court can consider whether negligence on the part of the pedestrian contributed to the accident. Even if a driver was negligent, a court could reduce a pedestrian’s damages in proportion to the pedestrian’s negligence.

The Maryland accident injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen are skilled at pursuing justice for people injured in automobile accidents on Maryland roads. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

The Fight Against Distracted Driving: Baltimore County Lawmaker Pushes for Tougher Cell Phone Driving Law, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 16, 2011
NHTSA Reports 547 Maryland Traffic Fatalities and 29 Washington DC Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths in 2009, Maryland Accident Law Blog, September 15, 2010
Toddler and Teen Pedestrians Injured During East Baltimore Car Accident, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 12, 2010

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