Legal Or Not, This Driving Practice Is Dangerous

Some time ago, this writer’s pastor told a story of having been called to give last rights to a woman whose car was broadsided by a fire truck. While she was driving, she was wearing her earbuds, listening to music in the plugged in way so many people do. The volume in her ears was turned up so loud, she could not hear the wailing of the sirens of the oncoming emergency vehicles, and the woman pulled into an intersection right in front of a truck racing to a fire.

The pastor’s point was not related to auto safety, but that story is the one that comes to mind any time a driver is seen wearing earphones of any sort on the street. As it turns out, the practice is legal, actually, in most states. Lifehacker with the help of the American Automobile Association did the legwork on which states have made the move to outlaw headphones for drivers. (Some states allow headphones in helmets, however.) They are:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Washington

It might seem that this is an infringement on freedom, but the truth is that it is legislated common sense. Unfortunately, when it comes to earbuds, music in cars, and all of that, common sense is not in fashion these days.

Many thanks to the AAA for their help with this post. They point out—and we agree—that regardless of the legality of wearing headphones in your state, listening to music on headphones while driving is a distraction, and can impair your ability to hear the sirens from emergency vehicles nearby and other important traffic sounds that would be audible if you were only listening to the radio. They point out that a headphone cable across your lap could become tangled and present a steering hazard. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you take the law, your safety, and the safety of others on the road into account first.

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