Police say 31-year-old Ezra Mullins probably never heard the train that struck and killed him two weekends ago as he was walking on railroad tracks in Charleston. Mullins was wearing headphones that made it difficult to hear outside noise.
Investigators in nearby Hurricane said the same thing in February, after a 17-year-old high school student was struck and killed by a train. He, too, was wearing a type of headphones that minimize outside noise.
Reaction to the reports and similar ones from throughout the world has been mixed, of course. Many users of modern headphones dismiss warnings about their use in hazardous environments.
But the numbers are adding up. In February alone, three people killed by trains in Canada were wearing headphones.
A recent study by the University of Maryland Hospital for Children found that in 2004, 16 U.S. pedestrians were struck and killed or seriously injured by vehicles they may not have heard coming, because they were wearing headphones. By last year the number of such accidents had increased to 47.
Should everyone with good headphones throw them away? Of course not. But neither should they impair their hearing by wearing headphones in possibly risky situations, any more than they would don blindfolds before crossing the street.
Trains do not represent the only danger for people wearing headphones. For someone not paying attention, just crossing the street can be dangerous.
We don't want to have to report such a tragedy in our area. So please: When you're using your headphones, use your common sense, too.