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Is it Legal to Wear Headphones While Driving in New York?

Headphones and earbuds seem to be everywhere. It’s common to see teenagers wearing them virtually all the time. Adults wear them to the gym, while taking walks and going for a jog, and sometimes even when riding a bike or driving. But is it safe to wear them when you’re bicycling or driving? Is it even legal to wear them while driving?

Is it safe? No...it is NOT safe to wear headphones or earbuds while riding a bicycle or when driving a motor vehicle. As far as the law is concerned, according to AAA, it is against New York law to wear more than one earphone that is attached to an audio device while driving. So, that rules out headphones completely.

If you are caught by a law enforcement officer driving with both earbuds in or driving with headphones, you could be fined up to $150, and you could spend up to 30 days in jail; however, points will not be added to your license. Since all driving violations in New York are technically “primary offenses,” a police officer can stop you for violating the state’s headphone law.

The Concern is About Safety

According to an article by Keith Williams in The New York Times, “The turning point was in 1982 when headphones were implicated in the deaths of people hit by trains in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Connecticut. Headphones were banned for all road users, including pedestrians, in Woodbridge Township, N.J., to prevent similar tragedies.”

Mr. Williams went on to explain how the New York City Council took up the matter, but it didn’t have the jurisdiction to enact a ban on headphones. Opponents of the ban felt that the government should not be encroaching on people’s personal choices.

Even though it’s legal to drive with one earbud in your ear while driving, we still say it’s safer to listen to music on the car’s stereo and save your earbuds for the gym, or when you’re doing projects around the house. It’s just not safe to wear them while you’re riding a bicycle or driving because you could miss important safety clues and be injured as a result.

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