Tuned in or switched off? The dangers of 'iPod oblivion'

Once again, tech lovers are being warned of the dangers of iPod oblivion: the ‘trance-like state’ users find themselves in when listening to music on their mobiles or mp3 players. With a plugged-in cyclist recently getting rather too close to a tram in the Australian state of Victoria (he was lucky to escape with only bruises), the debate once again rages about the way we use our favourite tech.

And it seems our boundaries are a very personal thing. I listen to my iPhone all the time on my daily stroll to work, and – if I’m honest – probably have the volume cranked up louder than it should be. But, perhaps as someone who cycles rarely and isn’t 100% confident on two wheels, I wouldn’t dream of using an mp3 player on the roads. (I know plenty of people who do, though.)

The whole thing reminds me a little bit of the sat nav scandals of recent years… back in 2007, hardly a week went by without some tabloid headline screaming SPLASH NAV, CRASH NAV or SPLAT NAV (or some other hilarious GPS gag) in a story about another hapless driver who’d driven their vehicle into a lake / though someone’s garden / off a cliff. And although the blame was initially laid on the GPS systems which ‘told me to drive that way’, the fact is that the users were simply switching off their brains as soon as their gadgets were turned on.

That’s what happens with iPod oblivion. And while it’s not necessarily fair, the fact is that road users are not only responsible for making sure we don’t make any mistakes – we’re responsible for spotting those made by other people, and dealing with them effectively (it’s one of the things I remember whinging about to my driving instructor). So, travelling mp3 users might be blameless, but they still need to know what’s going on around them.

Let’s face it: all we’re saying is that technology has to be used responsibly. Your mp3 player might be an escape from the drudgery of your morning commute – but it’s not an excuse to switch off completely. Maybe keep an eye on your volume levels, or maybe just take that extra bit of care. Enjoy your gadgets like the rest of us, I say, just don’t forget about the real world. What do you think?