This Horrifying Statistic Will Keep You From Wearing An iPod When Running

Even with the safety risks of wearing an iPod while running and the the dangers of damaging your hearing, more than half of you told us that you wouldn’t think of working out without your headphones. It can be easy to shrug off the supposed dangers of these devices while running until there is something more concrete to go on. Well, now there is. A new statistic reveals just how terrifying it is to wear headphones outdoors, and it may just motivate you to leave yours at home from now on.

According to new research from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, serious injuries to pedestrians listening to headphones have increased by 300% in the last six years. What’s worse, 70% of the people in these accidents were killed. That’s a number that’s hard to ignore. Not only do we have a greater chance of getting into an accident while running–or walking or biking–if we’re listening to our iPods, chances are we won’t survive if that happens.

Lead author Richard Lichenstein, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine says headphones should be considered just as dangerous as texting while driving:

Everybody is aware of the risk of cellphones and texting in automobiles, but I see more and more teens distracted with the latest devices and headphones in their ears. Ever since the iPod and earbuds have become indispensable school or commuting accessories, warnings of hearing loss have been prevalent from doctors, parents, and caretakers alike.

In many of these cases, oncoming cars or trains were sounding horns that the pedestrians couldn’t hear. In other instances, people were just too distracted to notice what was happening around them.

I don’t know about you, but even though I am a devoted music-listener while running, this statistic really bothers me. As it should. Are my tunes really more important than my life? Definitely not.

So tell us what you think. Will this information sway you to leave your iPod at home next time you go running? Or will you continue to take the risk?




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    • fig

      I drive near, through and around a popular running spot, with driveways galore. There are always tons of runners at dusk, wearing dark clothing, and listening to headphones. Cars trying to leave the campus that the runners are running around have their vision blocked by the trunks of the beautiful live oaks lining the running trail that make it so nice to run on. So not only are they hard to spot because they are wearing dark clothes on a shady pth at dusk, they are blocked by the trees until the car pokes it front end out far enough into the path to see the runners coming.

      Drivers nearly hit runners on a regular basis, because they run across driveways without stopping, pausing, or looking for cars. It is terrifying.

      Not Wearing headphones would certainly help the runners ability to react, but it would also certainly help if they followed other safety guidelines for runners. Like… stopping and looking both ways at all intersections. (There are 21 around the campus along the 3 mile running trail, which is likely why runner keep on trucking.)

    • Kj

      I don’t even wear headphones outside, let alone while jogging. I have always been way too paranoid about getting run over by things/assaulted… so these statistics are unfortunately validating my paranoia.

    • Annie

      Not that I don’t think wearing headphones CAN be dangerous, this study is not a really good reason to stop wearing them. If you read it, it is about 116 accidents that happened over a 7 year period. And it focused on incidents where pedestrians were hit by trains or cars. I am not a statistician, but this hardly definitive.

    • john

      With the amount of people actually killed by diseases each year you would think that the Maryland University Medical Center would be concentrating on researching something more worth while like…. I dont know a cure for cancer. It amazes me that they would waste money and funding researching how many people are injured while running with headphones. Good to see that the top brass there really has the nations top concerns in there sights. Way to go medical field.

    • Ariel

      I think it’s more notable to address that the study comes from the University of Maryland in Baltimore, one of the notoriously least safe cities for pedestrians and cyclists.

      “[Maryland] ranks… as second worst in the nation, spending only six-tenths of one percent of its total federal transportation funds on bicycling and walking projects.”

      After living in Baltimore City (not the county, the actual city) for more than 2 years, I can say I’ve almost been killed numerous times without headphones.

    • David Burrell

      The statistics me nothing, because they’re given entirely without context. You say the number of accidents involving people wearing headphones has gone up 300%? What if the number of people wearing headphones is going up 500%? In addition, studies like this are generally confounded by bad data collection. It may be that more accident reports are including that information, which would previously have been omitted. If we could compare the same jurisdictions with the same reporting characteristics over two different years including information both on the number of people wearing headphones and on the number of people hit while wearing headphones, we would be a much better place. As it is, this information is only scary to people who don’t understand statistics.

      • Kathleen

        David, My son Ben, 20 at the time of his death was on a 17 mile run. It was the last in the three goals he had recently set for himself. He was and avid runner and an incredible athlete. He was 3 miles short of his final goal while listening to his headphones and being in his “running zone” that he decided to cross the busy hwy without looking or listening. He was hit by a motorhome going 60 miles an hour, his body was flung 50 feet down the road where he lay dead. My life, my husband and children’s lives, family, friends and let’s not forget the the couple that hit him and all the witnesses who’s lives are forever changed and even ruined because he had his earphones in. I stood on the side of that hwy, I wanted to see what he was seeing and feel and hear what he heard. There is no mistaking the sound of traffic rushing by you going 60 mph. I know he didn’t hear it. And being in the “running zone” he probably didn’t see it. But you see, his responsibility that day was not to only to himself or the run it was to his dad and I, his siblings…… and to take care of himself. To know that when he is in that zone and too focused on finishing or whatever runners think while doing so he should have had respect for that and honored the senses God gave him and take the headphones out. I am sure that there are many runners, walkers and bikers that will disagree with my take on this subject. They might even go as far as to say, “that will never happen to me.” but, you just never know. Ben’s accident was totally his fault, but it just as easily could have been the drivers and Ben still wouldn’t have had all his senses to help himself. Good luck to you, be a responsible runner, take care of yourself and the ones who love you. It’s that simple.