A young student puts on her headphones while waiting to cross the street.
Duncan area RCMP said they have no intent to educate the public after a boy wearing headphones was struck by a train, but an expert in sound awareness thinks they should.
“Something like that, [it’s] something that everybody knows,” constable Markus Luder said.
“It’s just like looking both ways when you’re crossing the crosswalk.”
The 14-year-old was hit by a Via train during daylight hours on Nov. 5, and was unable to hear the approaching train despite repeated blasts of its horn.
“To me, that is amazing,” Luder said. “That dayliner comes through here everyday, I know how loud that horn is.”
Duncan area RCMP said the incident should serve as a lesson to people who might fail to recognize the dangers of headphones and loud music.
“Anywhere around any kind of machinery, any time where your hearing is important, wear one ear bud, don’t wear two, so you know what’s going on,” Luder said.
Chantal Laroche is an expert in noise and the perception of warning sounds at the University of Ottawa. She said she felt police need to help raise awareness of these dangers.
“As audiologists we know that we have a lot of education to do, and it’s unfortunate that police forces don’t want to educate the kids,” Laroche said.
Laroche said she felt people have to be careful, but said she would take it a step further than the police warning to wear just one ear bud.
“It’s risky to wear these devices when you are outside and moving,” she said.
“For me, as an audiologist, I never recommend people to [use] their ipod or music players when they are walking or running.”
Laroche was less than surprised about the boy’s inability to hear the approaching train.
“It’s not the first time I [heard] that somebody [was] hit by a train wearing headphones,” Laroche said. “They have to be told, because people do not know about these risks.”
Laroche said that her worries extend beyond trains, and warned against using music devices in any situation where your attention may be needed.
“The hearing system is very specialized,” she said, speaking about the difference between the ability to detect sound and that of locating it.While most people realize they cannot locate a sound they don’t hear, Laroche said there are still dangers.
“It’s a mix of detection and localization,” she said. “If you just barely hear it … it will take you more time [to locate].”
College student Sheena Lacey, a 26-year-old studying market management, said she routinely uses ear bud headphones like those worn by the Duncan boy.
“I sometimes wonder why I have my headphones in and my music blaring all the time,” Lacey said. “It’s not safe.”
Lacey’s friend, 19-year-old student Patrick Vernier, agreed.
“They should definitely go around to the schools and talk to the kids,” Vernier said.
RCMP said they were unable to offer any updates on the boy’s condition at this time.
“I believe they have a very injured leg,” Luder said.