In January 2017, Christopher Laurence Duncan was struck by an Amtrak train in Lima Township, Michigan and was later pronounced dead at the scene. Michigan State Police believe that Duncan was walking along the train tracks with his headphones on and did not hear the train approaching. The conductor onboard the train claims that he sounded his horn at Duncan and resorted to using the emergency stop brakes but was unable to stop in time to avoid the train crash. Despite the high speed and loud sounds of the train, which was going 76 mph towards him, Duncan remained blissfully unaware of the commotion because he was handicapped by the sounds blasting from his headphones instead.
Train vs Pedestrian Accidents Are On The Rise
Unfortunate and probably preventable deaths like Duncan’s have shown to be on the rise according to a study by LiveScience. The study gathered information from 116 vehicle accidents in the U.S. between 2004 to 2011 involving a pedestrian wearing headphones. The results highlighted that most of the civilians who were wearing headphones were under the age of 30. and that most of the vehicles involved in those accidents were actually trains. It should also be noted that more than 66% of the victims were also male.
The lead author of the study and ER doctor at University of Maryland Hospital for Children, Dr. Richard Lichenstein did divulge however that based on the data collected for the study, that it was hard to determine if the victims were crossing the tracks or had fallen onto the tracks. The data however did show that about a third of the vehicle drivers sounded the horn to alert the pedestrian before the impeding motor vehicle crash.
In a statement, Dr. Lichenstein said, "Everybody is aware of the risk of cell phones and texting in automobiles, but I see more and more teens distracted with the latest devices and headphones in their ears. Teenagers may not be as experienced or as conscious of their surroundings, and they're just zoning in on their music."
As a result, nearly 70% of the 116 accidents reviewed in the study resulted in death. Researchers state that the pedestrians wearing the headphones are distracted and experiencing sensory deprivation which can lead to ‘inattentional blindness’. This means that the distracted person's mental attention has been reduced, which in turn causes them to be involved in accidents as they are not aware of any impeding dangerous situations around them.
Ways To Mitigate 'Inattentional Blindness'
The best way to avoid an accident like the one Duncan was in, is by completely disconnecting one's self from electronic devices that cause some kind of sensory deprivation such as headphones, eye wear like virtual reality glasses, and other devices that draw a large amount of attention away from other senses. If such devices must be used, it is important to try limit the amount of distraction by turning down the brightness or volume of the device, especially when in public. It is also important to watch the social cues of others in the vicinity to infer if danger is imminent.
Inattentional blindness is a serious mental handicap that many people can be unaware that they are experiencing. It is human nature to believe that we can multitask and take in our surrounds at the same time without error. However likely that maybe for some people, such behaviors are usually unsafe. Like pedestrians, motorists who talk or text on the phone while driving are also engaging in this dangerous multitasking behavior and are placing others at risk.
Dr. Lichenstein's study is one of many showing the increasing hazardous situations pedestrians are placing themselves in by becoming preoccupied with their wireless devices. Headphones cause users to zone out one's surrounding which in turn can lead to them not reacting in time to avoid being involved in a motor vehicle accident. Have you or loved one been injured in a car or train accident as a pedestrian? Call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free consultation. When you are fighting for your rights, having an experienced and knowledgeable law firm in your corner is an advantage you need.