Now that just about everyone has a cell phone that can live stream music, many drivers have taken to wearing headphones and earbuds while driving to listen to their music. They also use them to communicate through their phones for hands-free phone calls rather than holding the phone in their hand while driving. While it's certainly better to have only your ears and mouth occupied instead of your ears, mouth, and hands, California law doesn't entirely approve of the practice. In an effort to reduce accidents caused by things like using earbuds while driving, California SB 491 went into effect this year. Because the laws continue to change, you could find yourself in need of a car accident lawyer in San Francisco, simply for driving with earbuds in your ears.
Exceptions to the Law
As there are with just about every law, there are exceptions to this one. Certain motorists such as those considered emergency personnel, construction equipment operators, and waste management vehicle drivers, are allowed to wear headphones while driving. It is understood that certain jobs require drivers to use headphones while driving. For example, emergency personnel might be communicating with other emergency personnel while construction equipment operators and those who drive waste management vehicles are most likely to be wearing earphones in an effort to protect their ears.
Reasoning Behind the Law Prohibiting Headphones
The law doesn't just apply to those who are operating motorized vehicles. It also applies to those who are riding bicycles. This is because ideally, all senses should be completely focused on driving the vehicle. When you hear sounds within the car, you can still hear sounds like police sirens and approaching vehicles, outside the car. However, when your ears are completely covered with earphones, or you have earbuds inserted into them, you are blocking some of the sounds around you. The law doesn't leave a lot of room for manipulating either. It specifically includes terminology like “resting on ears” so that motorists can't claim to just have the earphones on their ears without listening to anything.
Distracted Driving in California is Still a Concern
While it may seem extreme and intrusive, this is just another effort by the state of California to reduce the number of accidents that happen on the roads due to distracted driving. Incidentally, 80% of vehicle crashes in California involve some form of inattentive driving. Traffic on our busy freeways and roadways can be distracting enough with all the various movements and sounds, without adding the complications that earbuds and music can bring. Drivers certainly don't need to compromise their safety any further by effectively reducing the senses that they are able to use to navigate our roads safely.
Advanced Cars Include Options
Laws like this which prohibit drivers from wearing headphones may mean that more people will upgrade their cars so they can go hands and ears free when it comes to their phones and other devices. Many auto manufacturers now include features which allow voice commands, so you don’t have to worry about using your hands for anything but steering.
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