Accident victim's mother urges cyclists not to listen to music while they ride

29-year-old thought to have been distracted prior to fatal collision

by Simon_MacMichael   September 4, 2010 news

The mother of a woman killed when she apparently rode her bike into the back of lorry trailer has appealed to cyclists not to listen to music while they ride.

Speaking after an inquest into the death of 29-year-old Amber Mattingley, who was killed in Southampton in March this year, the victim’s mother, Sylvia Britton-Prior, revealed how despite her protestations, her daughter continued to wear large headphones, completely covering her ear, while she rode her bike, and was wearing them at the time of the fatal accident.

Ms Britton-Prior said: “I was always shouting at Amber to take her headphones off when she was cycling but she never listened to me. I told her: ‘I can see you getting killed’ and removed the headphones from her head,” according to a report in the Daily Express.

“But she was ignorant to the dangers of the road and thought she was invincible,” Ms Britton-Prior continued. “Nothing could separate her from her music. It was the love of her life. She even complained to me that the police had stopped her a couple of times and told her to remove her headphones. Amber thought she knew better.”

She added: “I hope some good can come from her death and that others will learn from our heartbreak. Please, do not listen to music while cycling on the road.”

The victim’s sister, 16-year-old Alice Britton- Prior, 16, said: “Amber loved cycling and she loved music. She never left home without her personal stereo and headphones.

“People would see her singing along to her favourite tunes by Kylie and Britney on the way to work. It would put her in a good mood for the day ahead. Mum used to have a go at her for wearing large headphones when cycling and not hearing the traffic but Amber ignored her. I wish she’d listened.”

The Southern Daily Echo reported that witnesses had told the inquest that Ms Mattingley, who was on her way to St Mary’s Fire Station where she worked as a cleaner, had been riding along a cycle path running alongside Northam Road in St Denys when she failed to stop at a junction and rode straight into the rear of the trailer of the lorry, which had been turning right into Prince’s Street.

She died at the scene from chest injuries received during the collision, and accident investigators said that it was possible she was listening to music at the time of the crash.

The lorry driver, 60-year-old Harry Dickinson from Carlisle, was reported to have had an unblemished driving record and was not aware of the collision until a motorist flagged him down and told him what had happened. Keith Wiseman, coroner for Southampton, entered a verdict of accidental death.

17 user comments

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That is one reason I never bought an i-pod as I kept reading stories of cyclists being killed by them. I opted for an i-river B30 instead as I have never read a news story of anyone being killed listening to one.

Another sad story of a poor cyclist killed by their failure to look which is somehow then blamed on their sense of hearing.

Simon Mason, Kingston upon Hull

posted by swldxer [34 posts]
4th September 2010 - 16:27


Are you serious? Do you think that by having an alternative brand of MP3 player to the ipod that you'll somehow not be distracted by it? What an ignorant and disrespectful thing to post.

The Good Shepherd's picture

posted by The Good Shepherd [54 posts]
4th September 2010 - 22:04


Are you suggesting that by listening to a none apple mp3 player whilst cycling has kept you alive? What happens when you read a news article of a cyclist killed listening to an i-river B30? Buy yourself a Zen? And then if that happens a Sony?

The Man In Black.

posted by gandberg [215 posts]
4th September 2010 - 22:14


There's nothing in the reports to suggest which brand of music player it was (iPod is in the tags since to link to a couple of other stories of relevance), and sadly the only person who would have been able to tell us whether listening to music was a contributory factor in this accident is the victim.

Her mother clearly felt strongly enough about the issue that it became a point of contention between them, and unfortunately will never know whether her daughter would have lived had she heeded her advice.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8479 posts]
4th September 2010 - 22:48


It's bizarre that someone should think one type of portable music system should be less dangerous than another. Listening to music on the move is a potential hazard - my wife clipped a pedestrian who stepped out without looking in front of her bicycle just the other day


posted by OldRidgeback [2305 posts]
5th September 2010 - 8:59


One can only assume that Simon Mason's comment is an ill-judged attempt at humour which, given the set of circumstances described in the news item, is in extremely poor taste.

simonmb's picture

posted by simonmb [360 posts]
5th September 2010 - 9:30


Poor though the joke may be I think the intention was to underscore the writer's scepticism that listening to music is dangerous while cycling, and to some extent the bandwagon around the issue, not make light of her death.

Like the OP (I think) I wish people would stop trying to tell others what they should do - being related to a victim doesn't give you a higher standing than anyone else. If I never see the parents of Leah Betts on television again I won't complain.

I wear an iPod to train in Abu Dhabi because I have very little interaction with traffic. The roads are wide and traffic is light (at the time and place I ride). If a car hits me it will be from behind doing 80km/h and not have seen me so I figure hearing it won't make much difference. Even then I use earplugs that allow in some external noise.

On the other hand in the UK I don't wear headphones at all because traffic can come from so many directions and I feel less secure if I rely only on my eyes. Nor do I wear them on group rides in Abu Dhabi, as it stops me hearing where other riders are, or if they are moving.

But ultimately it's like helmets - don't wear them if you don't want to, and wear them if you do.

And like helmets I'll accept that bike riders should be forced to wear them only if pedestrians and drivers have the same standards applied to them.

abudhabiChris's picture

posted by abudhabiChris [566 posts]
5th September 2010 - 10:22


You have misconstrued my post. It was a dig at all of the "i-pod zombie" news stories which deflect the blame for fatal accidents involving cyclists to exonerate the driver, as the cyclist *must* have been at fault by virtue of the fact that they were listening to the radio or whatever.

This is the same "wasn't wearing a helmet so must have been at fault argument". As someone who does not wear a helmet and listens to the radio on my cummute I dislike these reports intensely.

If I was deaf or had my hearing impaired due to high winds there would be no issue, but have earbuds in and you are asking to be mown down.

My comments that I steer clear of "killer i-pods" by using a different brand was a dig at these stories, not the poor girl.

Simon Mason, Kingston upon Hull

posted by swldxer [34 posts]
5th September 2010 - 11:09


In my experience, the anti i-pod mob are usually car bound people who on seeing a happy fit cyclist pass them in a jam, try and work out how cyclists should be controlled to make their journey as miserable as theirs are.

First on the list are helmets; make them ride around on a hot day with a big piece of polystyrene foam clamped to their heads. That'll wipe the smug grin off their faces.

Make them wear compulsory hi-vis with a reg.number on them so they can be traced.

No listening to music either, let them just hear the sound of car engines and road noise. Of course, drivers can yak away on bluetooth or have big booming stereos, no problem.

Make them pay a "road tax" and have insurance and MOT like we have.

Make them wait in traffic jams, no filtering either inside or outside.

No lycra either, make them ride in "normal" clothes.

They are not interested in our safety at all, just in adding more laws to control to us.

Simon Mason, Kingston upon Hull

posted by swldxer [34 posts]
5th September 2010 - 11:35


I couldn't agree more Simon Mason, I seem to be getting a rash of infuriated car drivers having a go at me for filtering past them in traffic queues.

One managed to catch up with me after at least 40 seconds after I filtered past him in a queue, then wound his window down to shout at how irresponsible I was.

Car drivers seem to absolutely hate the speed and ease we can keep up and pass them in towns, so seem desperate to restrict us in whatever way they can.

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [649 posts]
5th September 2010 - 11:53


Ok, so it was an attempt at humour Simon, it was hard to tell.
I nearly slammed into an ipod wearing zombie who stepped off the pavement in front of me a while back. Luckily I was on the brakes quickly. I also had another ipod zombie on a fixie slam into me when he tried to overtake a bus because he didn't bother to look and see I was already alongside him in the middle of an overtake - there was enough room for both of us but he swung wide because he was zoned out. And my wife clipped a pedestrian who was lost in music just a couple of days ago. Maybe you're not a zombie but I remain sceptical and it's certainly true that many are. I keep my ipod for when I'm sitting at my desk in front of my PC or for when I'm commuting by train and I don't use it when I'm on my motorbike or one of my bicycles or driving my car. Just because the Daily Hate prints a lot of lies about cyclists, it doesn't necessarily follow that the ipod zombie stories are untrue. You can put me in the anti ipod-on-the-move category and I'm on two wheels by choice more often than four - both competing and commuting - and I've done a lot of commuting in London traffic in the past 20 years. If I'm in my car and a cyclist or motorcyclist filters past, yes I get frustrated but only because Im envious and think I'd rather have been on two wheels which, let's face it, I much prefer.
And no, I didn't think your joke was funny.


posted by OldRidgeback [2305 posts]
5th September 2010 - 20:51


i've used a portable cassette/mini-disc/MP3 player (note lack of use of brand names) whilst cycling on the road, and in well over 20 years of independent testing i've not noticed it make any difference to cars pulling out on me at junctions, or how close they get when overtaking whether i'm wearing a portable music-playing device or not, nor have i noticed being "wired for sound" or not making any difference to my vision, whether that be by seeing things ahead so i can avoid crashing into them or looking over my shoulder before making any kind of manouevre

similarly people "not looking" or "being an idiot" is the same whether they're listening to music or not

posted by VecchioJo [768 posts]
6th September 2010 - 7:43


Looking on satellite pictures of the area, the junction of Northam Road (not Norham) and Princes Street appears to be signal-controlled. Never mind all this listening-to-music distraction (presumably the lorry driver could have been listening to music too, not to notice the collision) - Who jumped their red light?

posted by a.jumper [721 posts]
6th September 2010 - 8:34


a.jumper wrote:
Looking on satellite pictures of the area, the junction of Northam Road (not Norham) and Princes Street appears to be signal-controlled. Never mind all this listening-to-music distraction (presumably the lorry driver could have been listening to music too, not to notice the collision) - Who jumped their red light?

Spelling corrected, thanks a.jumper.

Since all we have to go on is a report of the inquest, it's difficult to ascertain the full facts.

However, from what was reported, the inquest doesn't seem to have addressed traffic signals as a factor in the accident. All we know is that according to witnesses, the cyclist rode into the back of the lorry with sufficient force to suffer fatal injuries.

There are a couple of other details from a report at the time of the incident that add some background, namely that the cyclist was travelling in the same direction as the lorry, which was a tractor unit plus grain carrier trailer, along Northam Road towards the city centre.

So given the impact, it can be inferred it was stopped or at least travelling much slower than the bike, but if there had been traffic signals involved, both parties would have been subject to the same one.

As cyclists, whenever we hear about one of our number being killed on the road, it's natural we look for someone to blame, but in this case it does look as though the accident was doing to the rider's inattention, and from what the family is saying, that appears to be the way they are viewing it.

As for why the driver didn't notice the collision - the trailer was hit from behind and would have fully absorbed the impact, sadly in all likelihood he wouldn't have known anything about it until someone told him.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8479 posts]
6th September 2010 - 10:32


We've all met pedestrians who feel they can be selective with their senses and cross using their ears alone. They don't hear a car so don't bother to look right and then are surprised when you ride past their right shoulder. I have no problem with cyclists cutting off their hearing on the busiest roads in Europe - just as long as they expect no sympathy from me when they get in an accident. The world is full of those that think they're indestructable. If they're lucky they survive the truth.

Simon's comment - black humour. It didn't really warrant a PC tyre necklacing in my book. It was getting like the comments section on Youtube back there for a while! We're cyclists remember? The meek shall inherit the earth - if we're not all run down first of course.!/smile.gif

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1090 posts]
7th September 2010 - 19:54


It wasnt black humour, it was lack(ing) humour. Unless you think mocking dead cyclists is funny. It isnt.

The Man In Black.

posted by gandberg [215 posts]
7th September 2010 - 21:50


I don't get the impression from his post that Simon was mocking dead cyclists - I can see how you could misconstrue it though, as some have. I certainly take his point that "iPod Zombie" stories are becoming a media staple… but they're not just about cyclists and the sad fact is that in a complicated world sometimes the iPod/MP3 wearing cyclist or pedestrian is going to be at fault when something bad happens. In this case the victim's mother certainly seems to think that wearing headphones was the cause of the momentary inattention that cost her daughter her life.

My teenage daughter insists on wearing headphones plugged in to her iPod despite me repeatedly telling her how dangerous it is… I've shown her this too. She, like the poor girl killed in Southampton, doesn't have the 20 years of roadcraft or handling skills that Jo or Dasy bring with them every time they throw a leg over their bikes. Likewise I doubt either of them go out on the road wearing headphones which really must cut of your hearing more than a pair of earbuds.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4160 posts]
7th September 2010 - 22:24