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A terrible tragedy teaches an important lesson about wearing headphones

A terrible tragedy teaches an important lesson about wearing headphones

A must-have accessory for anyone with a mobile gadget is a pair of headphones. Most smartphones and media players come with a free pair, and you probably have several of these lying around your house.

Headphones let you listen to your music or watch a movie on the go without bugging everyone around you - assuming you keep the volume at a safe level. That's great for tuning out noise and distraction on a bus or in a busy office environment.

Unfortunately, headphones can also block out important warning sounds like sirens and oncoming vehicles. I've run into this problem more than once on my morning jogs. Fortunately, I've always come away OK, and I've learned what parts of my route are OK to use headphones and which ones aren't.

Shana Buchanan of Minneapolis wasn't so lucky this last weekend. While wearing headphones, she walked in front of a light-rail train, was struck and killed.

This tragedy highlights the importance of paying attention to your surroundings, especially when wearing headphones. I have a few safety suggestions that everyone should keep in mind.

Rules for wearing headphones safely

1. Don't wear headphones around moving vehicles.

2. When moving around in crowded areas, keep one ear uncovered so you can hear what's going on around you.

3. Keep your gadget's volume level low to hear loud noises - and protect your hearing.

4. Get an app like Awareness that will feed loud sounds to your headphones so you don't miss them.

5. Avoid using noise-canceling headphones unless you're in a safe place and stationary.

6. Don't wear headphones and stare at your screen while moving. Keep your eyes up and alert.

In fact, you shouldn't be staring at a screen while moving anyway. Just ask the people who have run into light poles, walked into fountains or accidentally stepped in front of moving vehicles.

On that topic, you should also never use your gadgets - with or without headphones - while driving. Texting while driving is a quick way to die or kill someone else. Or you might end up with this woman's frightening injury.

In the end, my advice is to use common sense and always err on the side of safety.

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