Some states, such as Massachusetts and California, passed laws that forbid drivers to use headphones while driving. Other states, such as Colorado and New York, require drivers to keep one earbud out while they drive. However, New Jersey is one of the states that does not prohibit headphone use while driving and even categorizes them as hands-free devices, given most are now equipped with microphones. While it is legal, wearing a headset while driving is not necessarily the safest option.
Is Wearing Headphones While Driving Dangerous?
The answer is definitely “yes.” Whether the car’s radio is broken, you’d prefer different music from other passengers, you’re tuning into a podcast or you’re talking on the phone, you are ultimately decreasing your sensory input and endangering others on the road. Drivers with headphones in are unable to hear the following as well as they should:
- Horns from other drivers
- Sirens from emergency vehicles
- Crosswalk alarms
- Railroad crossing bells
Ultimately, headphones are a cognitive distraction, given that the driver is listening to something else, rather than important audio cues on the road. Although headphones are legally allowed on New Jersey roads, a driver can face charges if they become involved in a collision and an investigation shows having both earbuds in caused the car crash.
However, a new bill proposed by New Jersey state legislatures could change whether headphones are allowed. Although the language is vague as to what qualifies as distracted driving (ahem, coffee drinking), the bill would amend current cellphone laws. If this new law passes, any electronic use is punishable by a $200 to $400 fine. While many are asking for the bill to clarify what else is prohibited while on the road, it is safe to say this bill is a good step towards cracking down on every form of distracted driving.