People wear headphones while driving for a variety of reasons, such as listening to music or podcasts, talking on the phone, or even canceling out surrounding noises from passengers. Although this practice is common among Hoosiers, many are unsure of its legality.
In this blog, we’ll answer the question, “Can you wear headphones while driving?” and we’ll dive into some of the risks and liability issues that come with wearing these devices.
Is It Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving?
The legality of wearing headphones differs from state to state. In Indiana, it is legal to wear headphones, earbuds, or headsets while driving.
The states that prohibit the use of these devices while driving are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.
Though it’s legal to wear headphones in Indiana, it’s illegal to handle a mobile phone at the wheel outside of an emergency situation, such as calling law enforcement, first responders, or another emergency service agency.
Driving While Wearing Headphones or Earphones Can Be Dangerous
Although you are legally allowed to wear headphones at the wheel in Indiana, these devices can pose a serious threat to your safety and the safety of others on the road.
When wearing headphones or earbuds, you may have a harder time hearing important indicators around you, such as car horns, railway crossing alerts, and sirens from ambulances, police cars, and fire trucks. You may even fail to notice important sounds in your vehicle, such as your engine failing or the hissing sound of a flat tire.
Additionally, using headphones may cause you to be distracted at the wheel. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), using headphones or earbuds creates serious cognitive distractions for drivers. Using hands-free devices is also considered a contributor to inattentional blindness, meaning that your vision is impaired by cognitive distractions.
All forms of distracted driving are incredibly dangerous, including driving while cognitively distracted. You may be so focused on a podcast or a conversation that you fail to notice an approaching obstacle. Cognitive distractions impair your reaction time and your ability to make safe decisions at the wheel.
Distracted driving is a serious issue in Indiana and the rest of the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving contributed to 3,142 deaths in the United States in 2019 alone, around 9% of all traffic fatalities that year.
Am I Liable If I Wore Headphones During a Car Accident?
As stated above, it is legal to drive with headphones in Indiana, but they can contribute to or cause a car accident. The use of headphones doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re at fault for a vehicular accident, but the cognitive distraction caused by the devices or failing to hear a siren or car horn could result in you causing an accident.
For example, if you wear headphones, you may fail to hear a car alerting you as you merge into their lane, resulting in an accident for which you would likely be liable.
Additionally, you could be considered partially liable for an accident as a result of using headphones. Let’s say that a car pulls out in front of you suddenly and you fail to react and slam on your brakes to prevent a crash. Although the other driver was likely primarily at fault, the cognitive distraction caused by using headphones at the wheel may have hurt your reaction time and contributed to the wreck. The other driver’s insurance company may try to make the case that you were partially responsible because you were distracted at the wheel.
In cases where multiple drivers are considered at fault, each driver is assigned a percentage of the blame. Indiana uses a modified comparative negligence system, meaning that your percentage of fault directly impacts the amount of compensation that you may recover after a wreck. If you’re considered 20% liable for an accident, the amount of compensation you can recover for personal injuries is reduced by 20%. If a driver is 51% or more at fault for a wreck, they cannot recover compensation from the other driver for their personal injuries.
Injured In an Indiana Car Accident? Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Today!
If you suffered an injury due to the negligence of another driver, you need to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit to recover compensation. Even seemingly minor vehicular collisions can cause a lifetime of complications that impact your ability to work and enjoy life, and you deserve to recover damages for your affliction.
In order to recover the most compensation possible after a collision, you need to contact a personal injury lawyer who can prove your claim or lawsuit on your behalf. For car accident legal support in Indianapolis, contact the attorneys at Crossen Law Firm. We can answer your questions including, “Is it illegal to wear headphones while driving?” and more. We’ll work to maximize your compensation for damages, which depending on your case, may include medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earnings, pain and suffering, and more. Call us today at 317-401-8626, or you can contact us online here.