Drivers wearing headphones in cars

Another post brought up the topic of AUX jacks being used for headphones. That raised a few questions in my mind.

Why is it illegal for drivers to wear headphones while driving?

I understand the need for emergency vehicles sirens to warn of their approach but…

Deaf people can drive, right? Some states only require a right hand outside mirror for the deaf to operate a vehicle. Some cars, Lexus, Buick, Audi and others are known for their quiet interiors. So quiet, it is almost impossible to hear sirens. I’ve driven cars so quiet I could not hear an ambulance until it was on top of me. States allow a single earpiece but not 2.

What about motorcycle riders? I can use ear plugs to reduce wind rush but not earbuds to listen to music or the phone. I can legally install speaker pads in my helmet for music or phone. What about Harleys with open pipes? I can hear cars on my bike with stock mufflers and my helmet on. Can you really hear cars beside you with open pipes and no helmet?

I’m just tossing it out there because I’m curious. The reasoning behind the laws seem to be contradicted in many ways. What do you you all think?

again , the ‘‘letter of the law’’ often misses the logic of the idea behind its inception.

It depends where you live. Some states do not allow either one or two ear headsets, some allow one but not two, and some allow both. As for motorcycles, ear protection Is allowed because it rejects harmful levels of should but does generally let muted sound pass through. That’s why foam or Swedish wool ear plugs are allowed in factories.

With cell phone hands free headsets coming in the form of ear buds, how is a police officer to know the difference between someone talking on the phone and someone who is listening to music through ear buds?

With Bluetooth motorcycle helmet speakers and ear buds, how is a police officer to know a motorcyclist is listening to music? How can a motorcyclist make use of GPS without Bluetooth speakers or ear buds?

The laws on the books about driving with headphones are largely obsolete due to changes in technology. If you can buy a DOT approved helmet that has speakers inside or a communication system that comes with the helmet, I don’t see why or how headphones should continue to be illegal.

My thoughts, too, @Whitey. GPS on a bike just doesn’t work without audio. Too much light to see the screen and too much time away from the road (same for cars, I like GPS to talk to me).

FWIW, My former state would ticket a driver wearing both earbuds to talk on the phone but not one.

Maybe a wireless device to broadcast sirens over radios and cell phones is in order. It has been talked about but nothing has been done that I’m aware of.

Since in my state I can have 2 speakers/earbuds in my helmet but only one earbud in while driving my car. How about if I wear my helmet in the car? You know for extra safety.

They’re already upgrading sirens. The new ones emit an additional loud, low frequency tone that you feel in your chest more than you hear it.

As for headphones while driving, I almost got run off the road a few weeks ago by a moron wearing noise-canceling headphones while driving. He couldn’t hear my horn when I was honking him for drifting into my lane.

That said, I tend to feel about headphones the same way I feel about cell phones; If you’re driving perfectly, then keep on truckin’. If you’re driving like a moron, then I don’t care what was distracting you, I just care that you were distracted, and you should be cited for it.

Maryland knows about single ear mobile phone headsets and about ear buds. They are still illegal. Hands free here means using the phone as a speaker phone. And it is a primary offense, meaning they can stop you for it.

“Since in my state I can have 2 speakers/earbuds in my helmet but only one earbud in while driving my car. How about if I wear my helmet in the car? You know for extra safety.”

I once heard a story about a motorcyclist being ticketed for wearing his helmet in a car. I don’t know if the story is true, but in my car, it would require significant extra headroom.

If you can wear your hood up in the car I don’t know why you couldn’t wear a helmet. You have to take into consideration who is writing and proposing the traffic laws. Usually the patrol captain or other law enforcement professional without much of a sense of humor or flexibility. Nice guys but not real flexible.

I still see so many people holding a phone to their ear while driving. No wonder turn signal usage is becoming the exception not the rule. Let’s see- have to hold the phone, steer the car- that does not leave a lot of hands left to hit the turn signal. And when I see two people in the front seat- both talking on phones- I just hope they are not talking to each other.

I actually find I can hear things better if I wear earplugs on a motorcycle. They keep the wind noise from drowning everything out. I won’t ride without them even though it may not be technically legal.

B.L.E., it may be legal in your state, or did you check that already?

Whenever I take a trip on a motorcycle, or ride somewhere that will take more than an hour to get to, I use disposable foam ear plugs. I find that when I stop for fuel, I can still make out what people say to me. Cheap hardware store earplugs (disposable or reusable), do a really good job of filtering out noise but still letting sound through. I’ve even worn them in my car a time or two. My car is pretty noisy, even with the windows up.

I just recently (last week) bought a new full face M/C helmet. First new one in 25 years! What a huge difference in wind noise. When I do ride, it’s a 75 minute commute with about 40 miles on the expressway (no fairing or wind screen at all). In the past, it took quite a while to recover from the incessant wind noise impact on your cognitive abilities…with the new helmet, it was like stepping out of the car…

The only gripe I have is with the newer designs, they squeeze your head so much it’s like chipmonk cheeks until your can break in the foam to fit better. This one had the best initial fit along with the built in retractable sun visor, dual snap fit windscreen to reduce fogging, full face clam shell and super light compared to many others.

If a helmet squeezes your head when it’s new, it’s not a good fit. You should be able to take well-fitting helmet right out of the box, wear it while you watch a long movie at home, and not be uncomfortable. If you can’t sit through an entire movie with the new helmet on, you should find one that fits better.

I’m not sure why you waited 25 years to buy a new motorcycle helmet, but it’s usually a good idea to replace your helmet every year or two, depending on how much you ride. I replace my helmets about every 12-18 months, when the inside starts to smell like body odor.

Personally, HJC’s CL series full face helmets (currently a CL-16 in XL) fit me pretty well. They usually cost about $110 each, but I was recently able to buy one on Amazon for $70. They aren’t very good at keeping out noise, but they are DOT and Snell certified. They are also FMVSS No. 218 certified, although I have no idea what that means. The CL-16 is also heavier than more expensive helmets, but it doesn’t bother me.

Finding a good fit in a reasonably priced motorcycle helmet isn’t easy, but I am fortunate to have found a particular model I like that I can reorder online. If you haven’t found the right helmet for you, I recommend you keep looking and shop in person until you do. Try on different brands and different models within those brands. Eventually, you should be able to find a helmet that fits you well right out of the box.

Of the 3 helmets I owned when I rode my motorcycle, the full coverage was my favorite. It was quieter than the 3/4 helmets I owned and I felt more secure knowing that I had at least some jaw protection. I also considered it cooler than the 3/4 helmet. Hey, The Stig wears full coverage! On really hot days I preferred the 3/4 with sunglasses. It was cooler temperature-wise.

Whitey, I have half dozen helmets of various styles. This is first new full face in 25 years. Don’t use that style much.

Its usually not so hot you sweat in the skull cap here. But even so the liners come out for cleaning. No way I’m spending $600 every year for a new helmet!

I must have tried on dozens before buying. Even the Shoei in the clamshell full face is tight to start. Can’t get much better than that and that’s how they make em. Memory foam that conforms to your head to end up with custom fit.