Driving with headphones on disregards logic, safety

Wearing earbuds while driving is a distraction and increases the chances of an accident. CONTRIBUTED
Wearing earbuds while driving is a distraction and increases the chances of an accident. CONTRIBUTED

Every month in Life, Cindy Antrican, public affairs manager for AAA Allied Group, Inc., provides traffic safety tips and information for motorists. Email: CAntrican@aaa-alliedgroup.com.

With Apple’s brand new AirPods, the wireless earbuds hitting the market soon, we are reminded that unfortunately, distracted driving laws haven’t kept pace with the changing technology and many drivers don’t have a clue what is legal or illegal regarding headphones while driving or operating a vehicle.

Wearing earbuds or headphones while driving could increase cognitive distraction level, potentially creating additional dangers on our roadways and only 14 states have some sort of restriction on the books. In Ohio, wearing or using one or more headphones or earphones is not permitted while driving. Four other states have a ban on headphones while driving. Distracted hearing could impact your level of concentration and prevent you from hearing the sirens of approaching emergency vehicles, and even background noise like horns or railroad warnings, putting you and other road users at risk, warns AAA.

Wearing earbuds, headphones or the new AirPods, the wireless earbuds just introduced by Apple, over both ears while driving might be the latest, greatest trend, but those “songs that get stuck in your head” might be the least of your problems. Listening to music using headphones, earbuds, or the latest wireless “thingy” on your ears while driving is a distraction and a traffic safety issue, cautions AAA.

In Ohio, wearing or using one or more headphones or earphones is not permitted while driving, with certain exceptions. Only 14 states have some type of restrictions on “earplugs, earphones, or earbuds” while driving, unless you are hearing impaired, according to the AAA Digest of Motor Laws.

Wearing earbuds or headphones while driving could intensify your sensory deprivation and cognitive distraction level, potentially creating additional dangers on our roadways. Wearing earbuds could also increase your risk factor on the road if you are wearing them over or in both ears. Some models have noise cancellation acoustical technology, which may cause you to miss some important cues for driving safely.

Here’s a look at regional laws, according to the AAA Digest of Motor Laws:

Ohio: “Wearing earphones over, or earplugs in, both ears is not permitted while driving. Exempts speakers built into protective headgear or hearing aids.”

Kentucky: “No prohibition on wearing of headsets while driving.”

Indiana: “No prohibition on wearing of headsets while driving.”

Michigan: “No prohibition on wearing of headsets while driving.”

In the interest of traffic safety, motorists should maintain “driver concentration” at all times, however it is not only drivers who are at risk of death and injuries, warns AAA. It seems headphones or earbuds for iPods and MP3 players are everywhere on highways and sidewalks, and everyone is distracted and less aware of their surroundings these days. Other highway users wear earbuds or headphones while jogging, walking, skating, skateboarding or riding a bicycle or even a motorcycle. All road users should be mindful of traffic while listening to headphones and the dangers that accompany this distraction.

At the end of the day, it is not known how many deaths or injuries stem from drivers wearing headphones, earphones or earbuds. While most states allow the use of hands-free devices while driving, it is imperative that drivers do everything within their power to avoid actions and activities that hamper their ability to “hear” potential danger and to respond accordingly. If your mind is off the road, it is still a cognitive distraction, warns AAA.

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