More pedestrians struck by cars while wearing headphones

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PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY EMILY ANNE EPSTEIN/METRO

If it sometimes seems like plugged-in New Yorkers are oblivious to their surroundings, it’s because these days, more of them are.

A study released Monday reports that more people nationwide are being hit while wearing headphones, and many did not notice any horn honking before the accident.

 The report, published in the Injury Prevention journal, reports that accidents involving people hit while wearing earbuds tripled since 2004.

 The authors of the report called distraction by electronic devices “inattentional blindness,” and said it “reduces mental resource allocation, or attention, to outside stimuli.”

The authors say that in pedestrian incidents, headphones can create environmental isolation, or block out the ability to hear surrounding sounds — like a car horn. The distraction of electronics like an iPod both disrupts the brain’s ability to interpret auditory details and creates a distraction, such as looking down to program in a new song.

Statistics show the number of people injured or killed while blinded to their surroundings by headphones has tripled in the past six years, from 16 deaths across the country in 2004 to 47 deaths in 2010.

 The median age of victims was 21, and 67 percent of those hit were younger than 30, according to the report.

 Of 116 collisions nationwide in 2010, 81 were fatalities. Trains hit people in 64 percent of incidences, and cars hit them 32 percent of the time.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @AlisonatMetro


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