National, state, and local campaigns have been hoping to convince people that distracted driving is deadly. Talking or texting on cell phones while driving can kill people, and studies have shown that talking on hands-free devices is risky also, since it takes a driver’s concentration away from driving. That’s true even if hands stay on the wheel and eyes remain on the road. There’s only so much information was can actively process. A new study shows that distracted driving isn’t the only dangerous thing people do when they’re out and about. Distracted walking is very dangerous also.

According to researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who published their findings in the journal Injury Prevention, 116 people out walking died or were injured in pedestrian-vehicle crashes in the period from 2004 to 2011, with those pedestrians wearing headphones or earbuds.

The researchers saw an increase in these kinds of accidents in recent years, which may be a result of more people owning and using electronic devices with headphones.

Most of the pedestrians involved in the accidents were male, at 68 percent. The victims were mostly young. Sixty seven percent were under 30 years of age. An alarming statistic is that in more than half of the accidents, victims were hit by a train, and in almost a third, or 29 percent, some sort of warning such as a horn was blasted before the pedestrian was struck.

Two problems cause people to be injured in these types of accidents, the researchers state. One type of problem is called “inattentional blindness.” This is where someone is focused on listening to their electronic device and doesn’t notice danger that may be present in their surroundings, such as traffic poses. The other problem the researchers identified is called “environmental isolation.” In this instance, the noise from the street is blotted out by the sounds that are being transmitted through the headphones.

The researchers said that pedestrians who wear headphones or earbuds are tuning out environmental sounds that can warn them and potentially save their lives. They also said that while there’s a lot of awareness that’s been communicated about the necessity to wear bike helmets or seat belts, people don’t realize how dangerous it is to walk around and not pay attention to what’s going on with traffic.

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