Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Pay Attention: Life Doesn't Need a Personal Soundtrack

I'm riding my bike on the trail in Rock Creek Park. A man is running just ahead of me. I call out, "Passing on your right." But he doesn't hear me: He's listening to his iPod.

Fortunately, I've never run down a jogger with my bike, but that's because I'm paying attention. Joggers wearing earbuds aren't; they've blocked a significant portion of their hearing. And that means they aren't going to hear trouble coming along behind them, whether the trouble is a mugger or an inattentive bicyclist.

We've been told to pay attention all our lives. It's often annoying advice, but it's also the easiest way to keep yourself safe. Paying attention not only protects you from attack; it also alerts you to other dangers, like fast moving cars and kids on skateboards careening out of control. Protecting yourself from accidents is just as important as protecting yourself from crime.

When you're out running or walking, you have three primary sense for information: sight, hearing, and smell. Cut off one of those, and you're at greater risk.

So put away the music and take in the sounds around you as you jog through the park or walk to work. Save the iPod for times when hearing what goes on around you isn't necessary to keep you safe.

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