back to article Death by iPod: beware the zombie trance

A 46 year-old woman wearing headphones was run over and killed by an ambulance in Sydney, Australia at the weekend. Police think she may not have heard the sirens. If so, the victim is a case of Death by iPod - a bugbear of NSW Police who blame careless music playing, headphone wearing walkers for a 25 per cent rise in …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. LuMan

    Death by WHAT??!

    Er, I know it's probably not THAT important in the greater scheme of things (i.e. people dying), but am I the only person who thinks that Apple might have something to say about the name of their very popular music player being used in this way??

  2. the G monster


    Darwin my dear friends, Darwin.

  3. Bassey


    As a keen (not very) competitive walker this is becoming a serious issue. Although I would point out it is not so much the device as the headphones that are the problem. In-ear phones are designed to block out external noise. Wearing open design headphones doesn't seem to have much impact as long as the music volume is kept reasonably low.

  4. Sordid Details

    Whatever happened to...

    ...the Green Cross Code Man? He'd be dismayed.

    I SAID, THE GREEN CROSS.... Oh, never mind.

  5. D@v3


    I nearly found one under my wheels the other day, just wandered out into the road (at a crossing, while the red man // green light was up)

    Darwin awards for these people?

  6. Mr Brush
    Jobs Horns

    A very modern problem

    Three times over the weekend I had twunts walk straight into me because they had their noses stuffed into their phones while wandering along busy streets.

    Normally I would take evasive action and allow them bumble on their way, but recently I've decided to point out the error of their ways by allowing them to collide with me.

    It's quite amusing to see the confused expressisons and stuttered apologies as they surface from their little virtual worlds.

  7. Pavlovs well trained dog

    that picture...

    is it that Justin twat from the Get a Mac ad?

  8. Anonymous Hero

    Darwin in action....

    People just seem to get more stupid every day.

    What happened to the green cross code?

  9. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Criminalising Stupidity

    Good job she was using an iPod because if she'd been deaf it would have been harder to lay the blame at her feet.

    So where does it end when the last great liberty of 'the right to fuck-up' we have is taken away? Are we to be penalised and punished for walking into lamp posts, falling down manholes and for slipping in the bath?

    Will getting a paper-cut mean paying compensation for blood-stained paper, loss of salary or a spell inside prison? God help you if you step on a rake or put a fork through your foot.

    I remember when the highway code on "who has right of way?" came down on the side of pedestrians - and still does in most cases. Seems Australians are now subservient to car drivers' impatience and greater rights than those who use their feet and occasionally make big mistakes.

  10. Eden

    Nothing new

    I've been mowing down Lemmings glued to their phones/mp3 players/Walkmans for over a decade now.

    The hunting is particularly rich in Central London where you get Lemmings who don't even need the aid of an audio device to run out in front of traffic.

    1. brimful

      Not at all

      After all, they didn't mind when the news papers reported on an ipod saving someone's life. Why would they mind it killing someone? And since the IPod is one of the most popular mp3 players around, it's safe to say that it is the lemmings - Steve worshippers - that are most likely to be "GOURANGA'd"

    2. The Indomitable Gall

      Dismount thy haughty steed, sir.

      "So where does it end when the last great liberty of 'the right to fuck-up' we have is taken away?"

      Fining someone for an accident isn't taking away their "right to fuck-up" -- it's recognising the fact that no-one has the right to fuck anyone else's life up. When a drunk driver doing 50 in a built-up area and he hits a child crossing the road, is he simply exercising his "right to fuck up" or has he, through his own carelessness, caused suffering to others.

    3. hitmouse


      If someone was deaf rather than in a trance state they'd be watching for traffic rather than simply walking out on the road without looking.

      And there is the problem, people who do this are endangering others' lives through their carelessness. Pedestrians and cyclists who are so absorbed in their own heads that they don't care about the cars trying to avoid them.

    4. hitmouse
      Jobs Horns

      People die?

      No big deal

      1. sjb2016

        You forgot the most important thing...

        Sent from my iPhone

    5. Wize

      less stupid people = better gene pool

      "So where does it end when the last great liberty of 'the right to fuck-up' we have is taken away?"

      Its taken away from the driver should they look away from the road for just a few seconds because some muppet has wandered out in front of them. Becomes totally the drivers fault, not the one who couldn't care about using their eyes.

      A deaf person would probably pay more attention when crossing the road in the first place.

    6. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      Death by stupidity?

      She made a fatal mistake, you only get one chance to make one of those!

      Hoover all over again. "MP3 Player" is too much for the average person to say these days, so we "get out the hoover" rather than "fetching the vacuum cleaner", and we "listen to our music on our iPods".

      1. Anonymous Coward

        I'm a total pedant - sorry

        "She made a fatal mistake, you only get one chance to make one of those!"

        Actually you can get loads of changes to make a fatal mistake, but you'll only make one, unless the mistake is fatal for someone else in which case you could make loads of fatal mistakes. What am I on about? I honestly wonder sometimes.

        coat me get.

    7. lglethal Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Sorry dont agree

      Sorry Jason, but your arguments dont stand.

      1) Deaf people realise they have lost one sense so they make up for it by being extraordinarily attentive to the other ones. For one, they are very unlikely to cross a major intersection without waiting for the little green man and they will use their eyes to make sure the path is clear before ever putting one foot on to the road.

      2) No-one is saying you will be punished for "f*cking up" as you so fabulously put it. You will get a A$100 fine if you walk out on to the road without looking, against the red man, and whilst wearing headphones/earplugs. This is already a law (whether your wearing headphones/earplugs or not). This sounds to me like the police are just putting everyone on notice that they are going to start enforcing this law. And the prosecutions for causing an accident, seem reasonable to me. Whether your wearing headphones or not, if you cause an accident by being stupid or inattentive then you deserve to feel the brunt of the law.

      3) I'm just going to ignore your third paragprah as useless hyperbole.

      4) Pedestrians still get the right of way in most cases but it is a give and take situation. When you are driving and you approach a set of traffic lights which are green you have a reasonable expectation that this means people are not going to step out in front of you. Just as for a pedestrian, when the little green man is lit up you have an expectation that a car is not going to run a red light and knock you down whilst your crossing. Its all about consideration. And when a car driver does hit a person who has stepped directly into the path of their car with no chance to brake in time, its more then one life thats ruined. Not only does it affect the family of the victim, but the driver of the car is usually shattered as well - no-one likes to be responsible for the death or incapacitation of someone else...

      So you can call this an attack on people's liberty and their right to make mistakes, but I cannot see it that way. If this campagin stops one person from being bulldozed to death because they werent paying attention, then thats a dozen people connected to that person who avoid having their lives torn apart as well, and for me thats a damn good thing...

    8. Velv Silver badge

      Green Cross Code

      Perhaps manufactures should be required to ship the device with the old Green Cross Code adverts as "sample videos". Tufty too :) And if the manufacturers want to keep a little respectability, "Charlie Says" from the Prodigy.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not wanting to point out the obvious but...

    People have been listening to music "on the go" for decades now.

    How come it's suddenly all dangerous and has caused a 25% increase in accidents?

    Oh, it's because it's an iPod is it?...... Really..... wait a minute while I get my cynic hat on.

    1. hitmouse


      There have been frequent times when I've just avoided hitting a tranced-out pedestrian standing in the middle of a street in Sydney at night ONLY because of the reflection of the iPod device or headphones in my headlights.

      I should also point out that Sydney being Sydney, the infatuation with all things i--- means that there are excellent odds that it an Apple device.

    2. Brutus

      it's the combo..

      wandering about with the sense of hearing blanked off can be hazardous but, as you point out, not noticable fatal; the increase in lethality occurs when you combine the loss of hearing with the loss of vision and general awarenesss you get from texting or checking your twitter feed or whatever.

    3. The Indomitable Gall

      Several differences

      People have been listening to music, yes, but not so many and not continuously. My personal stereo batteries kept running out and I kept forgetting to get new ones. My Minidisc player had an internal rechargable, but I kept forgetting where I'd left my charger. If I ever let my MP3 player run out of juice, it's plugged into my PC as soon as I arrive at the flat or in the office.

      There's also the "fire and forget" thing. With physical media, you had a bulky device and you were always changing the tape/CD/MD. It was physical, it had presence. MP3 players just sort of blend into the background.

      And finally, but most importantly:


      Those naff over-the-head things with the orange foam on used to let in a lot of noise.

      The original in-ear ones gave you more volume, but still let in a fair bit of background noise.

      Now we have the "buds" that gum up your ear canal in order to block out almost all background noise. Your 1982 Sony Walkman couldn't do that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        RE: Several differences

        Nail head hit, so it's not the ipod it's the headphones.

        Also, I didn't have a walkman back in '82, I wasn't old enough ;-)

  12. Lottie


    So there was never death by walkman? I guess no-one ever got hit due to inattentiveness until the iPod came along.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Jobs Halo

      Yes there was...

      but this time it is magical because Steve doth make it so! HEED MY CO....


    2. Anonymous Coward

      See headphone replies above

      Nuff said.

  13. Joefish
    Jobs Horns

    In other news

    Apple inc. have applied for a patent to shut down your common sense remotely if they think it's being used inappropriately.

  14. JaitcH
    Jobs Horns

    This is a Lemon 4 safety feature

    Although many non-existent (in Jobs mind) still exist, the 'call dropping' feature associated with Lemon 4 Version 1 phones is actually a safety precaution.

    As there is no sound when the call is dropped it permits the iPhan to re-connect with reality and hear warnings, etc.

    Another hidden Apple feature.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    This country!

    I had this yesterday where when I wanted to pay for my shopping at a checkout the stupid girl behind me was dawdling and yapping on her phone and wasn't paying attention and stumbled into me as I went to enter my PIN.

    She looked thoroughly confused and very embarasssed when I sternly growled "If you would excuse me!"

    There again I have had a similar thing with no phones involved where the next customer decides to just hog the card machine area and I've told them to get back and wait. Some people!

  16. Tigra 07 Silver badge


    Is this such a bad thing?

    If they listen to their music too loud and can't be bothered to look before they cross the road then it's their own fault if they get injured.

    And in that case they should pay repair bills for the car that hit them aswell.

  17. Wize

    In this day and age, no one takes responsibility for their own actions.

    People wander across the road without looking because they know the cars will stop for them. Its not just the headphone crew. I've seen people crossing the road with phone against head and no chance to hear or see me coming. Some cross the road diagonally (thus increasing their time on the road) with their back to the traffic and not a care in their head.

    All this falls down when the car can't see them. Maybe the driver is tuning in the radio. Maybe the sun glare blinds them for a moment. Maybe its dark and the person in the road is in black. Its not always the drivers fault when someone steps off the road just in front of them.

    I propose one method that will reduce road deaths.

    Fit cars with cameras. If the recording shows the person didn't bother looking when crossing, the driver gets off with it. Possibly with the right to sue the pedestrian (or their estate should they not survive) for damage to their car. (will need exceptions for blind, etc but still workable)

    Sure, there will be a lot more road deaths in the first month, but I bet the second month there are next to zero.

    1. David Barrett Silver badge


      "Maybe the driver is tuning in the radio" -- " Its not always the drivers fault when someone steps off the road just in front of them"

      I think you'd have a hard time offering that as an excuse... "Sorry, I didnt see you, I was fannying around with my stereo..."

      Driving without due care and consideration?

      Whilst pedestrians need to remember the GCC and stop & check before crossing drivers need to remember that in pretty much every circumstance a pedestrian on the road takes priority over the vehicles...

      I quite like the idea of having cameras fitted to cars, but whos going to pay for that? I know Im not.

      Mines the one with the electro-bastard ray on the back (no need to wait for them to step out that way)

      1. Wize


        True, fiddling with the radio isn't an excuse. But the idiot playing with the radio isn't going to sting as much as the idiot stepping out in front of him without looking, so more care should be taken when crossing the road.

        As for the cameras, the cost could be covered by the individual if it lowers their insurance premium (not having to pay out when someone steps out and a black box recorder during other accidents) or if they want to have an excuse of running over people who act like lemmings on the road.

  18. Graham Dawson

    Pedestrians do daft stuff, so what?

    What annoys me isn't pedestrians who wander around in their ipod zombie trances, it's when they think they can get behind the wheel of a car and do the same thing. I've lost count of the number of times I've narrowly avoided uncertain death only to find that the driver of the other car had these loud music-making devices crammed in their ears and were busy fiddling with them at 40 mph. In a 30 zone. Darwin doesn't kick in here because they would survive whilst killing off other, possibly smarter individuals.

  19. Ian Emery Silver badge

    Waiting for the sticker

    If we can fit cameras and get away with mowing down the sheep I reckon I will need at least 20-30 stickers per year to record my "Score".

    DO prams and buggies count as extra? I regularly get "YOOF " pushing their "BABIS" straight out into the road AND THEN LOOK to see if it is safe.

    Troll, OR IS IT??

  20. Stephen 10

    Or it could just be

    That the population of the 2 major cities in Australia has gone up by around 25% in the last decade. With no major increases in physical size, roads (and consequent far worse congestion and a decline in drivers patience levels) or pedestrian crossings and footpaths. We don't do infrastructure, just unplanned growth. That might lead to an increase in pedestrian fatalities.

  21. Ben Holmes

    Cause of death?


  22. Daniel B.

    Noise-reducing earbuds aren't an excuse.

    I happen to have the kind of in-ear headphones (earphones?) that reduce noise to a point where you can't really hear anything. When I'm in the subway, or in the bus, I have no problem with this. If anything, it also makes the subway ride bearable, as I can't hear the loud jackasses who sell pirated CDs on the train; they carry portable amps with their "music" cranked all the way up to 11!

    However, if I'm on the street, the first thing I do is to take out one of the earbuds, and turn down the volume. This is common sense, and anyone who doesn't do this is just waiting for a Darwin Award.

  23. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Hardly surprising

    In this country especially we have pedestrians who listen for traffic instead of looking for it. So the plugin in their earphones and then can't hear the traffic, but forget to look.

    It's no use listening as there are fast cyclists and even electric cars around that make less noise.

  24. Adrian Esdaile

    NSW Police - the best money can buy!

    Listening to her Ipod? Really? She wasn't perhaps pissed-off-her-face drunk by any chance? The spot she was killed is a notorious spot for late-night munchies, combined with being right next to one of Sydney's busiest and worst-maintained roads, combined with a treacherously narrow footpath, combined with being just below the crest of a hill. If there's a big truck going past you wouldn't hear an ambulance right next to you, earphones or not! I feel sorry for the poor ambo drivers, but to blame this on earphones is like blaming eating bread for causing violent behaviour on the basis that 99% of muggers had eaten bread within 24 hours of committing crime! (I can hear the cries of BAN BREAD! BAN BREAD! now.... fuck this is a stoopid country!)

    I work in Sydney's CBD, and have to cross about 5 of the big streets to get from the train to my office; EVERY morning at EVERY street crossing at least 1 twunt runs the red light. You cross with the pedestrian sign at your peril. Oddly there are NO red-light cameras in the CBD; sure people get all narky about speeding cameras but how can you claim a red-light camera is revenue-raising? Yet there are none in the CBD - I guess our rich business moguls and politicians don't like getting caught, and there wouldn't be a STA Bus driver left with a licence after a week!

    Also! I seem to recall headphones being around since oh, 1980 or so? Why is it suddenly a problem now? Could it be something to do with our city's road planning being so fucked that drivers are continually in a state of road-rage? Nah, MUST be pedestrians!

    NSW police didn't do any, like, you know, actual RESEARCH about this. They just find it easier to fine pedestrians than car drivers - the pedestrians aren't going anywhere as quick as the cars!

    Anything that any Australian Government department says is total BULLSHIT.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Just pedestrians?

    At least most of the time pedestrians are on the pavement. The real retards wearing iPods are on two wheels. Riding a bike in a major city is dangerous enough, but to deliberately cut off one of your two main senses for self-preservation and replace it with a major distraction is stupidity on a higher plane.

    I don't really care about anybody that stupid, but as a previous poster said, they have families and the car driver who kills the muppet has a guilt necklace for the rest of his life and a family as well.

  26. verity33
    Thumb Up

    Never mind the pedestrians...

    ...what amazes me is the number of *cyclists* wearing earphones! And they're mixing it with the traffic the whole time, (unlike the pedestrians, who are mostly safely on the pavement).

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019