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Could iPads, Bluetooth headsets and other gadgets be turning us into inadvertent negligent citizens?

A woman came close to drowning in the River Thames last week, as runners wearing headphones jogged past her, ignoring her cries and splashing, The Telegraph reports.

Matt Drury, 38, a passing cyclist, eventually noticed the woman in distress and helped her to safety. He told The Telegraph she had nearly disappeared under the surface of the water by the time he reached her.

"As usual there were joggers on the path. I saw a group of them run straight past her before I got there, but they had their headphones in and they couldn't hear her," he said.

Mr. Drury said he screamed for help and threw his bike down as he rushed to the river. At that point, another man jumped in and a third man, who was on a riverboat, helped pull her out of the water. The woman was taken to hospital and is believed to have made a full recovery.

Mr. Drury said he had been cycling home from work later than usual when the incident happened.

"It was lucky, if I hadn't have been running late I don't know what would have happened," he said.

To all the joggers who ran past unawares, he admonished: "They should keep their headphones in one ear, so they can hear what's happening around them."

Albeit much less dramatic, inadvertent cases of negligence happen all the time when people are oblivious to their surroundings because they're wearing headphones or tapping away at their smart phones and other gadgets. Just think of the guy on the subway this morning who didn't give up his seat to an elderly passenger because he was fixated with his iPad, the woman who spilled hot coffee on you as she elbowed past you in the cafe while she was having a cell phone conversation, or the co-worker who missed your entire conference presentation because he was on his Blackberry.

Are gadgets to blame, or merely an excuse for negligence?