It’s not the headphones

Here we have an article exploring pedestrian-vehicle crashes “in which the pedestrian was using headphones“.

Results There were 116 reports of death or injury of pedestrians wearing headphones. The majority of victims were male (68%) and under the age of 30 (67%). The majority of vehicles involved in the crashes were trains (55%), and 89% of cases occurred in urban counties. 74% of case reports stated that the victim was wearing headphones at the time of the crash. Many cases (29%) mentioned that a warning was sounded before the crash.

This sounds a bit confused — were there 116 incidents, or 74% of 116? One wonders. Either way, 116 over seven years (16.6 fatalities a year) doesn’t seem like a lot to get excited about, given that the USA has over 30,000 fatalities annually from car crashes (did they have their car stereos on? Perhaps it’s the music that’s at fault).

One also wonders, if I count as “one”, why the headphones are being blamed here. Being a pedestrian is not in itself inherently dangerous. It’s hard to kill yourself just walking around; it’s the large vehicles with which one may suddenly come into contact that are the danger here. As a pedestrian walking around at 6km/h, I am not dangerous. A motor vehicle comprising a bunch of metal traveling at 50km/h or more is dangerous.

A train is also dangerous. If 55% of these crashes involved trains, mostly in urban areas, why is the focus not on decreasing pedestrian access to train tracks? And since when is 29% — where “a warning was sounded” — “many”?

This sort of blame-the-victim writing really ticks me off.