Honourable senators, I rise to draw your attention to a disturbing trend among young people today across North America. More and more young pedestrians, wearing headphones attached to the newest mobile devices, are becoming victims in serious train and motor vehicle accidents. Because of the rising popularity of mobile devices using headphones, the statistics are rising dramatically.
Young people are being seriously hurt or killed because they are simply losing track of their surroundings. They are becoming what some call “inattentionally blind,” focusing too much attention on their devices and not enough attention on the world around them.
This past February, two teens were struck by trains in separate, yet shockingly similar, accidents. Both were in high school and both were hit by trains at level crossings. Both were using mobile devices and wearing headphones. Both were distracted and did not see or hear the warning signals from the approaching trains. One boy was from Oshawa, Ontario; the other was from Leduc, Alberta. Tragically, both died only one day apart. In the same month a 27-year-old man was walking along a train track in Banff, Alberta, and was struck by a Canadian Pacific train. He was wearing a toque and headphones and apparently did not hear the train coming; he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Today we live in a society which is increasingly safety conscious, and accidents like these should never happen, but sadly they are happening all the time. A recent U.S. study has revealed that 67 per cent of these fatalities were under the age of 30, 68 per cent were male and almost 9 out of 10 cases occurred in urban areas. An expert in this field, Dr. Lichenstein, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland, stated:
“Everybody is aware of the risk of cell phones and texting in automobiles, but I see more and more teens distracted with the latest devices and headphones in their ears.”
New research conducted by the University of Maryland has found that serious injuries to pedestrians listening to headphones have more than tripled in six years. In many cases, the cars or trains are sounding horns, but the pedestrians cannot hear, leading to fatalities in three quarters of the cases.
As a grandmother of two teenage boys, I am alarmed by these statistics. What makes them so troubling is that, in most cases, the accidents were preventable if mobile devices and headphones had not been used.
Honourable senators, I sincerely believe that we have a responsibility to raise awareness of this disturbing trend and to warn Canadians of the dangers of using handheld devices and headphones where moving vehicles are present. We must remind Canadians, and especially parents of children and young adults, to stop, look and listen, and we must urge them to stay alert so that they can stay alive.