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Distracted Driving: Wearing Headphones

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Photo: SplitShire

There are all kinds of distractions surrounding us while we drive. Texting, eating, and other passengers are all common distractions; campaigns to prevent distracted driving such as AT&T’s It Can Wait have sprung up over the years, but what many people don’t realize is that even music can be a hindrance behind the wheel.


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Music itself can pull your attention away from things happening on the road. But the problem intensifies for those driving with headphones in. On top of the music, these drivers have made themselves completely isolated from the environment around them. Many people see headphones as a hands-free option for phone calls. While it may be hands-free, that does not mean the option is safe. Driving without hearing is possible, but driving with headphones in is not the same thing as being deaf. Those headphones are blaring music directly into your head, creating an entirely new set of noises for you to filter through. You are allowing one of your five senses to be completely consumed by another distraction, which is far different than not having one at all.

When driving with headphones in, drivers are taking an unnecessary risk. In addition to the preoccupation of one of the senses, those headphones pose a safety hazard for the driver in the event of an accident. Having cords so close to your throat and head could cause for some serious complications if they were to get tangled around you in an accident.


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Now, the laws vary in terms of headphone usage behind the wheel. In most states, driving with headphones is still legal. However, some states partially or completely outlaw wearing headphones while operating a vehicle. For example, the state of Florida allows for one headphone in a driver’s ear if it is for means of communication (i.e. a phone call), according to AAA. Depending where you are, having headphones in could be grounds for a ticket.

In the end, safety is the most important thing behind the wheel. The phone call can wait. Listen to your music through the stereo and keep an ear out for sirens, horns, or anything else to alert you on the roadways.

Source: AAA Digest of Motor Laws

  • A couple of quick points, if I may. I work with the deaf community, and they are able to get driver’s licenses though they can not hear other vehicles. Secondly, the issue of texting and driving, or using your smartphone and apps is a bigger issue. Especially with company cars/fleet vehicles where employees often feel a need to multi-task and do other work while driving. Fortunately, there is anti-distraction technology that can block texts, redirect phone calls, and impede the use of apps. For individuals, apps like AT&T DriveMode can save lives and it is FREE. FleetMode does the same thing for company cars.