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Can Your Teen's iPod Kill Him?

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Cases of teens dying wearing their iPods are mounting. Is your kid's life at risk?

young man on the street

18-year-old Andrew Haslam was wearing his iPod Monday night as he jogged along the train tracks. He didn't hear the train's horn or see the onlookers trying to get his attention, and was tragically struck and killed.

This isn't the first time a portable music device has put a young person's life at risk. Almost half of all drivers under 30 use iPods and MP3 players while behind the wheel, increasing their risk of a collision, new research shows. One in five drivers in that age group also used headphones, potentially distracting them and reducing their awareness of traffic, horns and sirens.

Engineer Donald L. Fisher of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst carried out a study on drivers taking their iPods on the road. His findings were alarming: everyone focused on the device for a full two seconds at least once while driving, increasing the risk of having a car accident by three times.

Australian ad agency DDB Sydney did an ad campaign for the New South Wales Police "to raise awareness of the fact that the number of teenagers dying as a result of listening to ipods whilst they cross the road is beginning to reach "epidemic proportions." The picture accompanying this article is from that campaign. It is certainly attention-grabbing!

Here are some other tragic headphone-related deaths:

Isaiah Otieno, from Kenya, was crossing a street in a quiet Canadian neighborhood when a helicopter struggling to stay airborne suddenly dropped on top of him. Otiena was wearing headphones and may not have heard the downward spiralling chopper.

• 14-year-old Calvin Spencer was killed when he was walking with his head down along some railroad tracks and was wearing a personal music device with headphones. One witness said the engineer repeatedly blasted his horn to try to alert the boy.

• A Canadian student in-line skating while wearing headphones slid under a tractor-trailer he failed to notice until the last minute.

• A 21-year-old Brooklyn man who was listening to an iPod when he stepped in front of a bus. (Last year, New York Senator Carl Kruger's bill to ban the use of iPods, cellphones or other electronic devices while crossing the street motivated by this man's death was defeated.)

• Jordan Bell, 14, was killed after walking in front of a speeding car as she listened to her iPod.

Abigail Haythorne, 17, died of severe head injuries after she cycled into the path of an oncoming car, apparently without noticing it. She was wearing her iPod at the time of the accident.

Lisa Moran, 20, was out jogging at the Chapel Hill campus in North Carolina wearing an iPod. She did not stop for traffic, lost her footing and fell under a bus.

Michael Juszkiewicz, 33, was wearing an iPod when he was struck and killed by a train after leaving a friend's home.

Tyler King, 18, was wearing an iPod was killed after being hit from behind by a freight train.

"Anything that distracts a person when they should be concentrating is a potential hazard," pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson says. "This is why drivers shouldn't dial or text and drive. It is also why there have been reports of pedestrians getting involved in accidents with cars while texting and crossing the street. It seems logical to extend that to iPods too. And there's an additional risk: if the music is loud or engrossing, it can make it impossible to hear oncoming vehicles. So if you want to take a walk or a jog with your music, just keep the volume low enough that you can stay tuned in to your surroundings."

The iPod owner's manual says: "Use of headphones while operating a vehicle is not
recommended and is illegal in some areas. Be careful and attentive while driving. Stop
using iPod if you find it disruptive or distracting while operating any type of vehicle or
performing any other activity that requires your full attention."

Do you kids listen to iPods while walking, riding their bikes, or driving?


next: Octomom Tells All to Dr. Phil
31 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jason March 26, 2009, 11:30 AM

Or kids can be smart and not take a jog on train tracks…

Sariga March 26, 2009, 12:38 PM

honestly, it’s just a coincidence that they are listening to their ipods. you can’t just assume that. everybody has ipods or mp3 players. plus… if a train was “blasted his horn” the kid would have heard it no matter how loud the ipod is at.

Patrick March 26, 2009, 12:52 PM

This might just be me, but if a helicopter is falling on top of you, I don’t think there’s a whole lot you can do, headphones or no.

Lisa March 26, 2009, 1:25 PM

Sariga: Not true, my daughters friend was killed several months ago while walking on the train tracks with his Ipod on. He never heard the train horn.The track is behind my house and we heard it and knew something was wrong since there are no crossings there and the train never blows it’s horn back there.

AshleeLizbeth March 26, 2009, 1:39 PM

I don’t normally post my opinion on articles, but this one is too stupid not to. These deaths aren’t caused by mp3 players; just stupid, non-observant people believing they are invincible. Ok, no one can dodge a helicopter! Be observant- how can you not see a tractor-trailer? Did these people not learn to pay attention to traffic? And I really don’t understand how the train accidents happened, if you’re walking down the tracks you can feel the train on the rails & how can you not see a huge train hurdling toward you??? If you ask me, the train incidents were suicide.
**Lastly, whatever GENIUS put together this list should be slapped!!!**

Michelle March 26, 2009, 1:50 PM

Um is it just me or does it seem that if 99% of these people were actually watching where they were walking they would be fine. How is an ipod to blame that you ran out into traffic, or got hit by a train. I mean really! Who jogs on the train tracks! This is just stupid!

Ray March 26, 2009, 2:19 PM

Ashlee; I have been a Locomotive Engineer for a long time and I can tell you that it is very difficult to hear or feel a train approaching unless you are looking straight at it. It is simple physics, first you have the ballast “rocks” that the ties and rail sit on. Vibrations do not travel well through things that absorb them. Second, train whistles can only be so loud. for example if a train whistle is maximum of 100 db’s, and you have your mp3 player at 110db’s then you have effectively blocked the whistle noise, and that is when bad things happen. Just remember that train tracks are private property, it is not only dangerous, but it is tresspassing and that is also illegal.

Kally March 26, 2009, 2:47 PM

First, let’s look before we cross the street. Second, let’s stay off of the train tracks. These are all things we have been taught when we were young. An ipod does not affect your eyesight. Using common sense would have saved all these lives. It’s their own fault.

shani March 26, 2009, 2:56 PM


u have to be plain dumb to A)be walkng on the train tracks.
B)did there parents ever teach them how to cross the street!!!! its not the ipods fault if they died because they werent paying attention!!!!

Gregg March 26, 2009, 4:05 PM

I feel for people and their loss, but it sounds like social Darwinism to me. I from a big city with big traffic and I’ve always listened to some type of music device. I’ve been smart enough to not have it so loud loud that I cant hear the world going on around me. And listing to an ipod while driving is just plain moronic. Who does that?

Rabbit March 26, 2009, 8:38 PM

To me this is common sense. To many young people, and not-so-young people, it is not. They fail to realize the risk involved in walking around or even driving around with music so loud that they cannot hear what is going on around them. We can warn our kids about this danger, like other dangers, but face it… It all goes in one ear and out the other. So you just have to hope YOUR kid will not be one of the unlucky ones.

Brando March 26, 2009, 9:37 PM

this isn’t the iPod’s fault. i’m fifteen years old and no disrespect to these people older than me that died but if you are dumb enough to walk out in front of a bus or a train, how in hell did you people get a job to get the iPod in the first place??

Buffalo Leader March 26, 2009, 10:19 PM

Those are some pretty long headphones in the picture. and you shouldn’t be looking down when crossing the street anyway, and does sound like really painful deaths under a tractor-trailer??? I’ll remember not to use my ipod while I skate.

Troy March 26, 2009, 10:48 PM

haha, sorry but i cant help but laugh at all the stupid, ignorant people in the world today. Not only are walking on train tracks stupid, but it is illegal. The kid hit by a helicopter was just downright unlucky. but honestly a tractor trailer doesnt exactly sneak up on ya, and neither does a train or a bus! i mean come on, who rides there bike straight into oncoming traffic! maybe we should just blame the ipod for global warming and the economy while were at it.

jake March 27, 2009, 12:15 AM

Why are so many walking on train tracks not paying attention? MORE self destructive behavior. @@

mercaties March 27, 2009, 2:01 AM

First of all, a train horn is way louder than any i-pod or Mp3 player. I live several miles away from train tracks and can hear their horns like they were in my back yard. So not hearing a train behind you, sorry don’t buy it. People just try to make excuses for suicide or being on drugs and acting stupid. Let’s assume for one minute that you are totally deaf and really can’t hear the train you would still be able to feel the vibrations. Train vibrations can be felt for miles. The only way I could see someone accidentaly getting killed by train would be if they were physically injured and couldn’t get off the tracks and what’s the odds of that.

Jill (the other one) March 28, 2009, 12:29 AM

How loud does the volume on an iPod have to be for a kid to not hear a train? And what happened to looking both ways in traffic? Tragic, but not the fault of the iPod.

Anoninurse March 28, 2009, 1:28 AM

Just tell your kids to hide them well. We don’t need anymore an heroes.

Michelle Henderson March 28, 2009, 1:31 AM

I really hope they didn’t have bad days. I know I did.

Anonymous March 28, 2009, 12:28 PM

Did sony also cause thousands of deaths with the walkman?? Its idicoy that kills those people not music playing devices…


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