back to article Oz pedestrians fall to 'Death by iPod'

Distracted Oz pedestrians are allegedly dropping like flies to "Death by iPod" - an untimely end provoked by walking out into traffic while in a "zombie trance". While New South Wales road fatalities have dropped overall this year, "pedestrian deaths have climbed by 25 per cent to 53, compared to 44 for the same period last …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Pedestrian deaths up 25% in the last year.

    And they're blaming technology that has been commonly available in some form for decades.

    Is it me or am I missing something here?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      "Is it me or am I missing something here?"

      The supposed increase in attention deficit disorder and 8GB+ of music to skip through.

      Boring... next... boring... next... boring... splat

      Badgers, because road kill is road kill, whatever the species.

  2. heyrick Silver badge

    "lose two demerit points" ... double plus ungood!

    Really, I think blaming an MP3 player for human stupidity is a bit much. I wear mine at work (I work on my own most of the time), in one ear, and am quite capable of carrying on a conversation with co-workers while the music is playing. Due to general factory noise, very few people are even aware of it.

    You see, there's a responsible way to enjoy your music, and - given failing to hear an ambulance siren - there's the way to be a dick.

    1. Black Betty

      Read the post. 2 demerits for loud IN CAR stereo.

      And the reason is perfectly reasonable. If your in car stereo is loud enough to legally be considered noise pollution outside the nearly sound proof box which most modern vehicles are, the driver has absolutely no hope of hearing audible warning signals coming from outside.

      As far as the penalty for a pedestrian using an MP3 player in traffic... well death is a bit harsh, but only because of the life sentence they hand their involuntary executioner.

      On bike paths, I have had any number of these twits out jogging suddenly turn onto another path right under my front wheel, without so much as a backwards glance. As far as they're concerned, the law says they have right of way and it my responsibilty as the cyclist approaching from behind to avoid them, WHATEVER they do. It may well be my responsibility, but this can be considered official notice: henceforth, if as a result of their actions, I am given the choice between hitting them and a pile of rocks, I WILL choose them.

      Earbuds attatched to an MP3 player are as effective as an icepick through the eardrums for creating situational deafness. Almost certainly worse actually, since music is very, very good at grabbing a listeners attention (and focus), while silence at least forces a person to pay more attention to their other senses. You only have to watch the head and hands, when the rest of them is not in motion, to see how much of these people's attention is on the music and how much is on those unimportant things like trains, busses, ambualnces and uncovered mineshafts.

      Even a single earbud is potentially dangerous in a high risk environment, since it effectively deafens the wearer on that side.

      As for your "well *I* can multi-task" argument... Well, If you print it on nice soft paper, I will give it the same deserving attention I give to like arguments about using cellphones, applying makup, route planning, catching up on the news, eating, etc. while driving.


      The human mind can not multi-task.

      What we can do with some training, and considerable practice, is delegate repetetive and rigorous rule based tasks to the same non-thinking part of the brain which takes care of walking and not shitting one's pants.

      The human mind, can to a limited degree timeslice, but every extra activity requiring active conscious focus demands a certain amount of cognitive overhead (stackspace), more tasks = more overheads and greater cognitive hit each task takes. Furthermore, in the event of an emergency, when full focus is required, it takes time to let go all that "cerebral housekeeping" and focus all that scattered brainpower to go to work on the one task. A bit like real mode switching on a 286 really.

      1. Scott 19
        Thumb Down

        @Black Betty

        Man I wish I had the time to comment on such a small drama.

        I surpose there other sense's such as sight wasn't working at the time.

        Darwin invented a special kind of theroy about people like this removing themselves from the gene pool.

      2. Naughtyhorse


        except I'm a motorist and YOU are in my bloody way on the road.

        Given that I pay road tax, insurance, keep my vehicle (demonstrably) roadworthy, providie myself with sufficient training to operate safely - what exactly are you bringing to the party?

        fuck all, AND you are holding me up


  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Darwin Commendation

    Not worthy of a full award, of course, but surely worth something for idiots removing themselves from the gene pool.

  4. Steven Knox

    Cart, Horse

    "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."

    No, listening devices would help explain why pedestrian fatalities continue to escalate while total road deaths decline, which is probably what you meant to say that we should be asking.

    An answer relevant to what you actually suggested we ask, on the other hand, would be something along the lines of improved safety features in automobiles.

    1. Phil 66
      Thumb Up


      That Sir, is some TOP pedantry. I salute you.

    2. Michael Dunn

      Total Raod Deaths

      Perhaps total road deaths are declining because all those who would be killed in road accidents already have been.

  5. Steve X

    why legislate?

    "They should legislate appropriate penalties for people acting so carelessly towards their own welfare and that of others."

    Isn't nature already taking care of the problem?

    1. Ainteenbooty

      institute a fine

      for dying while using an iDevice.

  6. daz disley

    death by deafness ?

    "There is speculation she might not have heard the ambulance siren,"

    and how loud was said siren exactly ?

    1. Anon

      Re: how loud was said siren exactly ?

      I'd imagine full-on < H1 >, with some < blink > for emphasis.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did the Walkman totally bypass Australia, then?

    I recall stories throughout the 80s of people meeting untimely deaths due to their inability to hear oncoming traffic and it was always Sony that got the blame, whether or not it was a Goodmans knock-off they were listening to

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A lot of things have bypassed Australia

      In many ways it's still like the 19th century down here.

      1. Mark 65

        Just about to add

        The 20th century certainly bypassed Australia and it's not as if we skipped it and went to the 21st.

  8. Steve Evans


    Given that the Sony Walkman was invented way back in the 80s, I can't understand why they are only seeing an increase in zombie pedestrians now. Is it a combination of being daft enough to pay apple prices *and* being a zombie pedestrian?

    One other question... How loud do you have to have your mp3 player to not hear an ambulance?! Honestly, I think such deaths should be treated as saving the gene pool from pollution, just like the Darwin awards.

    1. Daniel B.

      Earplug headphones

      Walkmans used the big headphones, which didn't do much about ambient noise. The first in-ear headphones didn't do much about that as well... but some of the newer mp3 player inear headphones actually work as earplugs, blocking most ambient noise. Those are the "zombie trance" guys.

      And yes, I did have a Walkman, but I didn't have the noise-blocking headphones.

  9. Anonymous Coward


    "While the powers that be have already attempted to address the problem, and "distracted pedestrians who cause accidents are liable for a $100 fine and face jail on more serious charges", Scruby demanded a more rigorous deterrent."

    I would have thought that being struck by a moving vehicle would be sufficiently rigorous.

  10. Duke of URL

    penalties for people acting so carelessly towards their own welfare

    Seems to me they already HAVE said penalties. Becoming roadkill. Just think of it as Evolution In Action Cleansing The Genepool.

    1. Will Leamon
      Thumb Down

      The answer

      to that is that I don't want to kill anyone - accidental or otherwise for any reason. Plus I rather like my car and don't want it totalled by one of these zombies.

  11. Juan Inamillion


    Given the statistics I'd say it's more Death by Mobile than by iPod. As others have said here the 'Walkman' has been around since the '80's.

    I have to say I see more people stepping out into the road while on the phone than when listening to music (how do I know they're on the phone? Because they walk as if they're discussing world peace and nothing's gonna stop 'em).

    1. /dev/me

      Death by SMS

      I think, as Juan says, it's the mobiles that are dangerous. But texting is I think even more dangerous than calling.

      Of course, not the texting itself is dangerous, but the human ability to concentrate deeply on a 2~3 inch screen while ignoring the more obvious fact that they are participating in heavy traffic.

      Sometimes you'd just want to yell `renice 19 $(pidof sms)||userdel $user`

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Duke -

    Duke - I believe the phrase you're looking for is "Positive Darwinism" ;-)

  13. Anonymous Coward

    better headphones now...

    re: why people only now are not hearing external noises like a siren; I think you can put that down to current, modern headphone designs. Back in the day all headphones were totally shit at blocking out external noise. Yes, even those in-ear ones. Your modern in-ear earphones can pretty much block out all external noise. At least mine do, they're great.

    Are they why people are dying though? No. Obviously not. As others have pointed out it's the idiocy of the wearer that does that. Wear headphones, use eyes. Or are we now going to legislate to ban all deaf people from going out in public because they can't hear a siren? Duh...

    We should also ban all Nokia phones whilst we're at it. I saw a guy almost get run over by a car a month ago because he wandered into a road whilst he was dicking around with his phone without looking where he was going.

    Protect idiots. Ban iPods, ban phones.

  14. RW
    Thumb Up

    The golden lining to this cloud

    The breeding population of the Highly Entitled, in this case thinking their Highly Entitled Status overrules fundamental laws of physics and biology (to say nothing of common decency toward others), will be reduced in numbers.

    In about 30 years, look for newspaper (and Register) articles commenting on an unexpected improvement in public manners. No more butting into line at Starbucks; no more drivers with a cellphone glued to their ear; no more road rage. A paradise in the making, methinks.

    Just as genuine hippies are now a highly endangered species, with only a few breeding pairs left in special refuges, so there will be special refuges for the few remaining Highly Entitled.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      "No more... Starbucks"

      There, fixed that for you.

    2. Charlie van Becelaere
      Paris Hilton

      Genuine Hippies?

      Breeding in PAIRS? I think not, sir or madam, I think not. (not in Paris, either)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speed limits

    Alternatively, we could remember that most cities predate cars and that a speed limit of 20 mph would reduce the risk of death

    1. Ben Oldham

      Speed limits

      They shouldn't matter to pedestrians as long as you don't walk into the road without looking.

    2. The Cube

      So, you want your ambulance to drive at 20mph do you?

      I can see it now, scene, back of ambulance, lights, sirens and patient;

      Patient: Please please hurry up, my intestines are leaking out.

      Ambo: Sorry sport, speed limit is 20 on account of those iPod zombies wandering around the middle of the road, can you hold on half an hour?

      1. Thom Sanders

        Speed limit

        Since when do ambulances carrying a patient and using their lights/siren have to stick to the speed limit?

        20mph limits in urban areas are a great help for all road users and I'm glad they're becoming more widespread.

    3. Steve X


      Sorry, but the risk of death remains 100%, no matter what speed you approach it at.

      It's why one buys life Assurance, but car Insurance.

    4. Professor Tinklepants

      Most cities predate cars?

      Strewth mate, if there's a city predating my car I'm gonna drive a lot faster than 20mph!

  16. Brian 47

    Where's the problem?

    As far as I can tell legislation to keep drivers alert makes sense - motor vehicles can cause quite a bit of damage to other objects when they impact them - so you try to make sure that distracted drivers don't harm innocent bystanders, other motorists, etc.

    On the other hand, the average pedestrian isn't going to do much damage if they walk into something. So I see legislation to "warn" them about the dangers of walking while sonically impared as something like legislation to prevent natural selection taking place? What the.....?!?!?!? Shouldn't pedestrians be able to exercise their God-given right to play traffic rhoulette?

    FAIL because people should be allowed to get pwned by motor vehicles if they want to.

  17. Dr. Mouse

    It's Not About the Music (tm)

    I have seen this many times. Most of the time I back off a bit and am more careful as soon as I see someone with headphones on.

    It is not as much about the fact that they are listening to music. It is more that they end up in a trance, playing with their phone and listening to music, not even thinking about the world outside.

    I have done similar in the past, nearly walking out into the road on the way home from school, because I was thinking about some school work.

    I don't think education will work. Everyone sometimes drifts off, and kids will just take the opinion "why the hell shouldn't I listen to my music, you mean grownup!"

    In general, things like this are going to happen, no matter what we do to try to prevent them, especially as more and more portable gadgets become available (businessmen speaking on their handsfree while looking at the pretty powerpoint slides are just as likely to step out into the road without looking, in my experience).

    Live with it, or ban everything, lock people up in padded cells and let robots do all the work.

  18. TimLennon

    iPods kill!

    As already observed by a number of posters, these people aren't being killed by iPods, they're being killed by cars. If you're driving a car in a place where there's a likelihood of people stepping out, etc., etc., you shuold be moving slowly enough that you can stop in time - hence 20mph limits outside schools.

    All in all, it's quite impressivee that you managed to pretty much completely ignore any possibility that these people are dying because they're being run down. Hence, fail.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: ... you can stop in time - hence 20mph limits outside schools.

      Ok, I think I've mentioned this before in another post but....stopping distances. If you're going at 20mph then according to the calculations used by the highway code then your stopping distance will be 40ft. If somone steps out 10ft in front of you, you *are* going to hit them, unless you're doing around 7mph.

      If you don't want to get run over, take personal responsibility for checking that it's safe to cross. Of course, some drivers do need to "modify their behaviour".

    2. david wilson


      >>"If you're driving a car in a place where there's a likelihood of people stepping out, etc., etc., you should be moving slowly enough that you can stop in time - hence 20mph limits outside schools."

      Well, I await with interest the introduction of 'fuckwit zones', where people who can't survive on ordinary streets can feel safe wandering around in a daze as if as if there were nothing around larger or faster-moving than themselves.

      Oh, hang on, we already have them, they're called pedestrian areas, and I'm all for them.

      They work brilliantly for all the people sufficiently bright to work out where they stop.

      Personally, I find a great clues are pavements with obvious edges, roads with road markings, and subtler hints like the presence of normal traffic.

      I can understand 20 zones around schools, where there can be an unusual concentration of people who may have not yet become aware of danger, 20 zones in obvious residential areas, and warning signs for other 'special' areas'.

      However, it's a bit much for people who are old enough to know better to expect me to drive at a snail's pace all the time just in case they decide to walk out in front of me without warning.

  19. JaitcH

    Canada has a solution

    Some Canadian emergency vehicles are fitted with a 'horn', more like an acoustic vibrator, that actually shakes vehicles and motorcycles which, together with the accompanying low frequency tone, can break through these mobile acoustic sound chambers.

    The effect on humans will certainly return the zombies to reality.

    1. Michael Dunn


      Emergency vehicles fitted with a vibrator? There's a novel idea! It might be tough in A & E, but getting there is half the fun!

    2. John Sturdy

      except with the latest headphones....

      Some in-ear headphones are advertized as having rich bass sounds, so the people who use those and turn the volume up will just think they're getting really good bass!

    3. Steve Evans

      Re: Canada has a solution

      I still think I prefer the alternative way to "vibrate" these morons back into paying attention... Namely shaking them up with the bumper, bonnet, windscreen, roof and road.

      Closely followed by a law suit for the damages to my vehicle.

      Sometimes people just have to take responsibility for their actions.

      Oh, and re the 20mph zones outside schools... I defy anyone to tell me they can do more than 10mph past a school when it's kiddy kick out time! The school run parents and their "novel" parking and driving skills see to that!

  20. Jesthar

    Not just the player, but the headphones...

    Possibly MAINLY the headphones. Back in the Walkman days, headphones were - lets face it -pretty awful, not much good at blocking out the surrounding world unless you forked out the megabucks, and in-ears models were practically non-existant.

    Nowadays, a major selling point for headphones is just how well they block/cancel out the sounds of the world around you to provide you with a truly enclosed, unimpinged upon listening experience. Use those whilst out and about, and you may as well be clinically deaf, but without the associated learned survival skills.

    I experienced this myself whilst driving to work a couple of years ago. I was approaching a junction where I had right of way, and a cyclist blithely lurched across the road right in front of my car. Thankfully I'd seen him coming and realised he wasn't going to see me and stop, but had I not hit the brakes in time I'd have taken out his front wheel. As he sailed past - still not seeing me or realising how close he'd just come to needing a few weeks in traction - I could see the white earphone cables trailing from under the helmet, and realised he was on another planet entirely...

  21. david wilson


    I think Dr Mouse is pretty much spot on.

    The original Walkman didn't actually have much to play with or look at while using, and early mobiles were also not much more than just a phone (and a phone which cost a fair amount to actually use), and could generally either be used as a phone or looked at, but rarely both at the same time.

    Being deaf to the environment is one thing, and is bad enough for people not used to lacking audio input. Being visually distracted at exactly the same time does seem to be something that is relatively recent, at least in a widespread form.

    It'd be interesting to see a breakdown of accidents by device type and mode of use at the instant of the accident.

  22. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge


    AT&T ads in the US are demonstrating how you can go about your day, including crossing streets, with your eyes never leaving the TV show on your cellphone. This is sad because people too stupid to keep themselves alive will be unavoidably killed by responsible people. No doubt legislation will be passed to equip vehicles with heavy, expensive, fuel-consuming hardware to keep brainless TV tumbleweeds safe.

  23. Matthew 25

    What about...

    the flashing lights? Aren't they a bit of a give away?

  24. Michael 28

    Complacency is the problem.

    A lot of people have become complacent about their own safety, and have increased the risk correspondingly.The "Death by ipod" reminds me of a period in the 1980's when mothers used to use their buggys in order to "force"right of way across urban slow moving traffic.

    Has resulted in a few deaths ...poor little mites. Still, it is a Darwinian solution... of sorts.

    and there's worse..

    Sure, you have good and bad cyclists and drivers, and i think the issue has been beaten to death, so i'm not going to rehash it. No matter how good your knowledge of the highway code, IT'S NOT ENOUGH.

    There ARE muppets out there.... live with it. And if you're a cyclist, which of you NEEDS the licence? A Pedestrian? Even if you pick a fight with a Fiat 128, who's it going to be "Game Over"for?

    Remember, the difference between driving/cycling without due care and Dangerous Driving is attitude. plain and simple. Same with walking.

    Winter's coming up soon... how many pedestrians have got their HI-Viz jackets and/or torches yet? Thought not!

    And as for public transport , HSE has extensive files. Buses have been banned in some urban areas.

  25. Nudge

    aaah the pedestrian council of oztraylia

    these guys are generally considered to be on the christmas mix side of nutjobs.

    their usual fare is to attempt to tap into any anti<insert random vehicle type here> sentiments to promote their cause. usually it's 4x4s (preferably sporting a roo bar), but can extend to vans, trucks, pushbikes, lame horses, donkeys bearing the messiah, etc. if they've once hit a pedestrian, the PCA will want to ban it. and of course it goes without saying that it's never the pedestrian's fault... ever.

  26. Mike Tubby
    Paris Hilton

    "lose two demerit points" - I win points!!

    Unless I'm missing something... " The government is quite happy to legislate that people can lose two demerit points for having music up too loud in their cars..." if I loose two *DE*merit points then I gain two points!!

    What do points make? PRIZES!

    Mike (tongue firmly in cheek)

    ... why Paris? Because she probably doesn't know the meaning of "double negative" lol

  27. Marina

    iPod, or iPhone?

    I live in LA, not Oz, and while I haven't observed an increase in pedestrian roadkill the last year, I have observed an increase in pedestrians entering the roadway without any sign of concern for their own safety while clutching a phone to their face during the last year.

    I assume this is a natural development now that phone-clutching is practically universal among the car-driving set.

    I've become quite the expert at dodging these idiots (both the four-wheeled and two-legged variety) on my motorbike, but have to admit I consider a switch from my nice and quiet Suzuki to a Harley Davidson with custom exhaust and an air horn so I at least have a chance at disturbing their conversation, though ideally the noise would make the suicide candidates smarten up and stay on the pavement till a dump truck or other suitable vehicle comes along.

  28. Magani

    PCA is a PIA

    Mr H Scrubby, self-appointed Chairman and CEO of the Pedestrian Council of Oz and self-promotion tragic, is of the "two legs, good; anything else, bad" mentality with particular venom for any method of wheeled transport that might generate interest from J Clarkson, esq.

    Given half a chance, he'd bring back the Red Flag Act for bicycles and ban anything on 4 wheels completely.

    The enlightened readers of this esteemed publication might consider Googling 'Harold Scruby Pedestrian Council' to see what his fellow countrymen (and Nudge, above) think of him.

    Any badgers in Animal Farm?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Appropriate penalties?

    "They should legislate appropriate penalties for people acting so carelessly towards their own welfare and that of others."

    What, death isnt good enough?

    Stop trying to raise funds by fining everyone and let Darwinism take care of the idiots.

  30. skeptical i

    What is this "demerits" thing?

    Crikey, is the entire population still in high school?

    1. Magani

      Crikey, is the entire population still in high school?

      No, they're just treated that way.

  31. btone

    Ipodestrian demise

    Simple darwinian process...vehicles many, plugs zero!

  32. min

    laying claim.

    death by ipod? darwinism by proxy.

  33. Yorkshirepudding

    its called natural selection

    i see no problem, the gene pool is being cleansed of those without common sense, this can only be good for the species, and if its mostly iphones getting smashed its a double win!

  34. TeeCee Gold badge

    I used to commute by Tube.

    The "tsky, tsky, tsky" noise emanating from some adjacent arsehat's muzak player's earphones used to drive me batshit insane.

    It's nice to see that some Higher Force is going out of Its way to organise my revenge for me. That's not say I wouldn't have preferred to see the inconsiderate bastards dropped en masse into a vat of boiling yak shit, but horribly maimed or killed by passing traffic will do as a compromise.

    1. FozzyBear
      Thumb Up

      Thank You Tee Cee

      I couldn't have put it better myself.

      Fucking around with natures most fundamental laws trying to save these idiots can only have dire consequences to society. Can you imagine the number of idiots that are going to bump or walk into you because they are fixated on the latest sms message or shuffling to the next song This is definitely one situation in which nature should be left alone to complete it's work.

  35. Wize

    '"There is speculation she might not have heard the ambulance siren," the Herald notes.'

    Did she not have eyes?

    Could she have looked before stepping into its path?

    I still stick by my post in the other killer ipod story

  36. Arctic fox

    It is not quite as insane as........

    .........crossing the road with your eyes tightly shut but it ain't far short of it!

  37. Alex King


    Going from 44 to 53 casulaties is not a 25% increase, it's 20%.

    What was the population and traffic change in this period?


  38. Hugh Jorgen

    I have a cunning plan.......

    Sometimes the simplest cure is the most effective.

    Problem: Pedestards listening to MP3 players and not paying attention to traffic

    Solution: Increase alertness in pedestards

    So, let the traffic do all the work........DeathRace 2010. Make it legal and highly encouraged for traffic to have free licence running down pedestards with headphones on whether they be in the road, on the pavement, going into a shop etc etc.

    This, I guarannfuckintee you, will make the pavement shufflers really pay attention, constantly checking the road in all directions for traffic. It will have the added benefit of improving their fitness by running, jumping, swinging, dodging and sudden sharp turns. Drivers could even be rewarded by a weekly points competition where the winner is allowed to remove a number of their least favorite shite music from iTunes.

    Everyone ultimately ends up a winner. Now, about my fee for solving this little issue..........

  39. Simon B

    people have been doing this since walkman days

    Fuck off, people have been doing this since walkman days.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    People HABITUALLY.....

    People HABITUALLY assume that:

    a) Just because they get the walk signal / green light; that

    b) It is safe to walk.... and

    c) They have no need to look left or right before stepping off the curb;..... and

    d) Just because they have crossed the road like this 10,000 times in the past, that there is going to be a 10,001th time.

    e) And having audio blaring in your ears, cuts out one effective route of a possible warning; and

    f) Having ones mind in "total distraction mode" really reduces ones chances on an already slim outcome.

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