Poll: Running With Headphones In Is Dangerous, But Do You Do It Anyway?

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 headphones 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 light 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

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    • K

      I work out in areas where violence is not an issue, but I certainly have worried about whether jogging on the roadway wearing headphones could be dangerous. In the end I still wear them, but keep the volume down and am very vigilant and aware of the traffic around me. I like to make sure there are deep ditches on the roads that I run on in case I have to bail.

      The gym I go to is crazy safe, in fact I used to work there, so I have never felt any qualms about turning my ipod up while working out there.

    • Julie

      Like K above, I am super aware of my surroundings when I’m outdoors walking, and have my volume done low enough to hear traffic noises. But when I’m on my cycling workout around the neighborhood I don’t wear the earphones at all. Going faster on the bike seems a bit more dangerous than just poldding along on hoof.

      Great piece, and I love the polls.

    • sean
    • Michael Ogren

      I came across a new product called HearBudz that allows you to hear your music and surroundings at the same time, which is way safer than tuning everything out around you. They work with standard white Apple earbuds and re-position the speaker to just outside of your ear canal. These work great and are the most comfortable earbud I’ve ever used. They are inexpensive too. Check ‘em out at http://www.hearbudz.com/#!hearbudz-home-page/mainPage