SYDNEY, 6 SEPTEMBER 2010 - Death by iPod is being blamed as a contributing factor to the 25 per cent rise in the number of pedestrian fatalities in New South Wales, Australia.
The ''iPod zombie trance'' people get into when walking, driving or pedalling around listening to their mobile devices is being blamed for an increase in collisions and even deaths in Europe and the US.
The issue has been highlighted in Sydney by the death of a 46-year-old Glebe woman reportedly wearing headphones when she was knocked down and killed by an ambulance on Saturday night.
There is speculation she might not have heard the ambulance siren when crossing Parramatta Road at Mallett Street at Camperdown.
She was one of at least six pedestrians hit by vehicles on state roads over the weekend, including a 34-year-old man who died after being hit by a bus in Leumeah early yesterday morning. Although the number of people killed on NSW roads so far this calendar year has dropped, pedestrian deaths have climbed by 25 per cent to 53, compared to 44 for the same period last year.
Harold Scruby, of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, said research into deaths resulting from people not paying attention to traffic while using mobile devices was scant in NSW.
'''Death by iPod' is a relatively new phenomenon so it may be slow in showing up because it can sometimes be a year between the fatality and the coroner's finding,'' he said. ''But we should be asking ourselves why are total road deaths declining while pedestrian fatalities continue to escalate? Maybe listening devices could be part of the explanation.''
Distracted pedestrians who cause accidents are liable for a $100 fine and face jail on more serious charges but latest NSW policy figures last year show there were 406 fines issued to pedestrians not paying attention to road safety.
In an endeavour to educate the public, the Pedestrian Council's ''lambs to the slaughter - wait for the green'' campaign featuring a group of pedestrians wearing sheep heads and listening to mobiles and iPods has appeared in newspapers and a billboard.
But Mr Scruby said the rise in the popularity of iPods and other listening devices illustrated an urgent need for action by state government and manufacturers.
''The government is quite happy to legislate that people can lose two demerit points for having music up too loud in their cars, but is apparently unconcerned that listening devices now appear to have become lethal pieces of entertainment,'' he said. ''They should legislate appropriate penalties for people acting so carelessly towards their own welfare and that of others.
''Manufacturers … should be made to [warn] consumers of the risks they run.''
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