Despite iPods, Walking Is Less Risky These Days

Despite iPods, Walking Is Less Risky These Days

If you’re walking in an area filled in traffic, it pays to concentrate, so listening to an iPod or other music player isn’t very sensible. But despite that obvious bit of advice, it doesn’t follow that we’re at a greater risk of being run over simply because portable music is so popular.

Picture by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

I’m musing on this issue because Marissa, the publisher on our sibling Sugar sites, had a close and bruising encounter with a car while walking yesterday. In the office discussion that followed, someone mentioned that the risk of getting hit is much higher if you’re wearing an iPod (which, for the record, Marissa wasn’t). A recent US study suggesting that iPods increase the risk of pedestrian fatalities has put the issue back in the headlines.

However, while the use of an iPod might increase the risk, that doesn’t mean the risk is particularly high. Crikey’s The Urbanist blog notes that the 116 earphone-related deaths in the US study account for less than 1 per cent of total pedestrian deaths in the same period. It also cites data on pedestrian deaths in Australia which shows that the numbers are declining:

According to figures compiled by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, pedestrian deaths in Australia have been declining for the last thirty years. Deaths of males are more than double those of females (119 vs 55, in 2010). Pedestrian fatalities are also declining in younger age groups – there was a fall of 4% between 2001 and 2010 in the 26-39 years age group and 2% in the 17-25 group.

The bottom line? Yes, totally failing to pay attention to the environment around you as a pedestrian makes it more likely you’ll get hit. But don’t equate that with a massively increased overall risk.

Are iPods really killing pedestrians? [The Urbanist]


  • “…someone mentioned that the risk of getting hit is much higher if you’re wearing an iPod…”

    I’m so glad that I use my Android phone to listen to music while walking to/from work – I get to listen to tunes without an increased risk!

  • It would be interesting to know the corellation between pedestrian accidents and earphone-wearing *drivers*. IMHO being distracted while driving a car is far more dangerous than a distracted pedestrian. And having music is one thing, but blocking out other sounds with earphones or headphones is quite another.

  • Part of the story may be missing? Are there figures on the number of ‘pedestrian-strikes’ / pedestrian injuries as distinct from deaths? It occurs to me that increased vehicle design emphasis on reducing pedestrian injury (as reflected in the ANCAP vehicle safety testing regime) may be influencing outcomes. Hmmm?

    • Agree, a lot of the story is missing. So many near-misses as well. Some one with music in his ears is like having no hearing at all. So you should be 100x more alert!
      I don’t agree listening to music in-ear. As a cyclist I also mean other cyclists, it is madness. They are surprised if you have been ringing your bell for the last 5 minutes… Please, no music in your ears!

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!