With seemingly little fanfare, a seven-sentence story by Agence France Presse, with the headline “Death toll among pedestrians wearing headphones triples,” popped up on Yahoo News a while back. It is all but forgotten about now, having first appeared mid-January, but the subject merits revisiting. The Yahoo link is borked, but you can read it on any number of websites by going here.
The story reported the results of a study, which revealed that “[T]he annual tally [of US pedestrians killed or badly injured while wearing headphones] rose from 16 in 2004 to 47 in 2011, bringing the total of cases to 116 over this period.” Researchers of the study, headed by Richard Lichenstein of the University of Maryland Hospital for Children, in Baltimore, further warned of an “inattentional blindness,” or “a distraction that lowers the resources the brain devotes to external stimuli.”
The results of the study — conclusive data parsed from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Google News, and the legal database, Westlaw — were published in the British journal, Injury Prevention.
At the time the story appeared, a cursory search of the word “headphones” into Google News generated upward of 330 results, all citing the same Lichenstein study. It surfaced in The Daily News, Fox News Radio… the L Magazine picked it up from The Daily News, adding that the NYPD’s 34th Precinct “created its own texting-while-walking awareness campaign last year.” The results of the research were also published in The Washington Examiner, ABC News, Metro New York, NBC Washington, and hundreds of other media sources all over the web.
The one conspicuously absent item missing from those 330+ stories was any mention of the 27th Senate District’s now former legislator, Carl Kruger.