Rebecca Bernard
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Massachusetts Reminds Drivers To Remove Headphones

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Photo: SplitShire

This month, Massachusetts’s new hands-free law — which makes it illegal to use a phone behind the wheel without voice commands — took effect. While it makes big strides towards making the consequences for distracted driving more serious, it’s had an unintended consequence. This week, police leaders went to the media to remind drivers that wearing headphones while driving is just as illegal as texting while driving.

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“We would prefer nobody be on the phone at all,” South Hadley Police Chief, Jennifer Gunderson said. “Like really, just drive, that is the message. What I think this law is going to do is push people off their devices completely.”

There is one caveat to the headphone rule, at least in Massachusetts: If a driver is talking on the phone, they can use one earbud to listen to the call while keeping both hands on the wheel. One ear has to remain free from headphones to listen for sirens or other sounds to alert them to changes in traffic.

Besides blocking out important auditory clues while driving, wearing headphones increases “cognitive distraction,” reports Cindy Antrican of the Dayton Daily News. The small devices are made to block out surrounding noises, creating a bubble of music and entertainment. While that’s ideal for office workers or travelers on flights, drivers need to remain connected to the world so they can react quickly to traffic changes.

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This new law in Massachusetts and the state police’s enforcement plan gives us hope that safer driving conditions could be on the way — as long as residents aren’t constantly looking for a loophole.