In January, lawmakers in several states took a serious look at the potential danger of “distracted pedestrians“–those who walk, jog or even bike with headphonesÂ and iPods or other mp3-playing devices on. Now, nearly a year later, “iPod Oblivion” still isn’t illegal, but it does continue to be be blamed for elevated danger to pedestrians, especially to women. And yet, many of us are still out on the trails and roads, blissfully bopping along to our playlist of choice. In the light of not-surprising-but-still-serious rape and violence statistics, have you considered unplugging for your own safety?
Telling women not to listen to music while the work out–which is pretty close to essential for many of us–so that we don’t go get our silly selves raped is pretty unfair. But until the US adopts some super-cool, non-victim-targeting anti-assault campaign like the one that Scotland Yard has, we’re going to have to continue to make decisions that protect ourselves, which may sometimes mean doing things that aren’t fun, like exercising to the sounds of our own feet on the pavement. But it’s not just stranger danger that has road safety experts and public health officials worried about the epidemic of iPodding pedestrians and cyclists.
Just like with driving a car, the distraction of music (or podcasts, or even texting or talking) while walking, jogging, or cycling–even without the threat of assault or attacks–is still enough to put pedestrians at risk, according to studies on the subject. And yet, close to 75% of pedestrians and cyclists report listening to something on an mp3 device. Outdoor exercisers who are cranking the tunes or chatting on their phones are more likely to cross against a lightÂ or otherwise unsafely enter an intersection, and less likely to hear alarming sounds, like horns honking. And it’s not just in the US; around the world, pedestrian deaths are up, and iPods are being blamed.
Again, though, there are certainly times where “distracted” pedestrians are in the right–and the danger is coming from distracted drivers. Thus, urging walkers and joggers to unplug to protect themselves from someone else’s poor decision-making seems a little victim-blame-y. But, just like when it comes to taking steps to protect yourself from assault, it’s probably worth it to make the decisions that cut your own risk, even if that risk is the result of someone else’s behavior.
Is it worth it to walk, run, or bike with your headphones in, despite the danger? Do you turn off your iPod for safety, or take the risk and jam while you jog? Let us know in this poll, and then feel free to share your experiences in the comments.
Sorry! This poll is now closed.
Image: Tune Into Traffic, a UK initiative