Anna Marie Stickel never heard the train coming. The 14-year-old was listening to music on her iPod while walking along the railroad track, taking a shortcut to school after missing the morning bus.
An Amtrak train traveling south along the stretch of track in Maryland's Middle River struck her from behind, instantly killing the high school freshman on Jan. 5, 2010.
Anna's tragic story sparked a national study examining the dangers associated with pedestrian use of headphones, according to Dr. Richard Lichenstein, director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine Research at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children in Baltimore. She was among 116 cases studied.
The findings: Wearing headphones while walking on roads can be a fatal distraction.
The number of people killed or seriously injured as a result of not being aware of their surroundings because they were wearing headphones has tripled in the past six years, Lichenstein said.
Results were published Tuesday in the journal Injury Prevention. The study found:
- The number of deaths of people wearing headphones increased from 16 in 2004-2005 to 47 in 2010-2011.
- The majority were male (68 percent) and 67 percent were under the age of 30.
- The majority of vehicles involved were trains (55 percent).
- 89 percent of cases occurred in urban counties.
Lichenstein and three researchers delved into the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, Google News Archives and Westlaw Campus Research Database from Jan. 1, 2004 to June 1, 2011.
"Sensory deprivation that results from using headphones with electronic devices may be a unique problem in pedestrian incidents, where auditory cues can be more important than visual ones,” the study cited.
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