The death of a Biddeford man who was hit by an Amtrak train Monday may be the latest in a rising number of accidents involving people wearing headphones, ear buds or similar devices.

Headphone-related injuries and deaths in the United States nearly tripled from 2005 to 2011, and more than half of the accidents involved people being hit by trains, according to a recently published study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Sean Page, 40, was wearing ear buds as he walked home from a convenience store Monday afternoon and couldn’t hear the Downeaster train coming when he was hit on the tracks near his home, said his wife, Valerie Page.

Amtrak and Pan Am Railways, which owns the tracks, declined comment or did not return calls seeking comment on the accident Thursday. Their investigations continue.

A 14-year-old Maryland girl who was wearing headphones when she was hit and killed by an Amtrak train in 2010 inspired the study by Dr. Richard Lichenstein, director of pediatric emergency medicine research at the University of Maryland, according to the medical school’s website.

The study, published in January in the journal Injury Prevention, showed that from 2004 to 2011, there were 116 accidents, including 81 deaths, involving pedestrians using headphones. Sixty-four of those people were hit by trains.


There were 16 headphone-related accidents in 2004-05, and the number increased every year through 2010-2011, when there were 47, the study showed.

The added danger of wearing headphones while walking on railroad tracks has been part of Operation Lifesaver’s educational programs for at least a decade, said Fred Hirsch, state coordinator for the national nonprofit organization, which promotes rail safety.

The Maine chapter of Operation Lifesaver, which is funded by the owners of the state’s railroads, is in the midst of an educational campaign in towns from Portland to Brunswick, where Amtrak is set to extend its Downeaster passenger service later this year.

Hirsch said volunteer presenters have been talking in schools and before local groups about the dangers of walking in the railway, which is private property. He said two Falmouth police officers were certified recently to give the presentations.

Falmouth Police Chief Edward Tolan said his department has a policy for officers to give a written warning for trespassing to anyone who is caught on the railroad tracks in town.

“It’s more for safety. … We hope it deters them from being on the tracks,” he said.


Sixty percent of the 712 people who were killed in railroad accidents in the United States last year were trespassing on the tracks, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration. The figure includes people whose deaths were ruled suicides.

Spokesman Rob Kulat said a study by the administration in 2008 estimated that a quarter of trespassers’ deaths are suicides.

The rail administration doesn’t keep track of whether the people who died were wearing headphones, but it should, said Kulat. “It’s happening more and more,” he said.

With the Downeaster set to come through Falmouth at higher speeds than freight trains do now, Tolan said, it’s even more important to make people aware that they shouldn’t be on the tracks.

The train that hit Page was traveling under the 60 mph speed limit for that section of the railway, said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole, though he didn’t know its exact speed.

“We need people to get the message that you don’t have a lot of time to get out of the way,” Tolan said, “especially if you don’t see it or hear it coming.”

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:


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