Gather round fellow runners. We, like many of you, love a little Black Eyed Peas and Lady G when we run. But according to a new safety report, tuning out while we crank out the miles can kill us. Or at least pose some serious risks similar to those who text or talk while driving.
The Governors Highway Safety Association just released figures stating that, last year, for the first time in four years, pedestrian deaths rose, including those of runners. The culprit? Our beloved iPods and other gadgets that runners, bikers and walkers use. Experts blame them for interfering with our hearing and awareness when around traffic.
To help curb accidents, some states are purposing new laws designed to eliminate these distractions. In New York, for example, a pending bill would make it illegal for walkers and runners to use any kind of electronic device while crossing the street — something that makes it virtually impossible to have any tunes at all if you’re in say, Manhattan, where every few steps is met with another intersection. Pause, play, pause, play. Other states like Oregon and Virginia are looking to pass laws that would fine bikers as much as $90 for riding while listening to music.
Even if these bills do get passed, it brings up the question about how they will be enforced. If past races that have attempted to ban iPods are any indication, they can’t be. Unless you have police at every intersection and hundreds patrolling the streets every day in search of us hip-hop running offenders, these proposals are more or less designed to set a precedent, letting us know that tuning out during our runs is dangerous.
Diana Deutsch, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of California at San Diego who researches the perception of sound, explained why to Women’s Health:
“Music floods the brain and takes over your thought processes. You concentrate on the lyrics, or the music evokes certain memories or sends you into a daydream. The tempo can interfere with the rate at which your brain perceives images that are passing by you, which could trip you up. In short, music draws your attention away from what you’re doing and increases your risk of literally running into a dangerous situation like an oncoming bus, a malicious stranger, or a lamppost.”
Jumping-out lamposts aside, we are all for safety. We wear reflective gear during early morning runs, don’t hit the streets alone at night, run against traffic and always obey the rules of the road. But, giving up our precious, motivational, kick-ass playlists? That’s a tough one. On the one hand, if we leave our iPods at home, we may live longer. But on the other hand, who else is going to tell us that our sex is on fire mid-way through a 10-miler?