Editor's Note: The following message was submitted to Patch by the Massachusetts State Police:
The Massachusetts State Police, in conjunction with the Department of Transportation, have begun a public awareness message on the use of personal headphones, or “ear buds,” while driving a motor vehicle. The constant need for instant communication has helped pioneer a host of advanced cell phone technology and has become an integral part of our lives. Unfortunately, this has added to the many distractions that hinder safe operation of motor vehicles.
Hands-free technology, including personal headphones, have helped eliminate the constant need to hold a cell phone while driving. But some operators have begun to use their headsets to listen to music, audio books, and other media while driving. When you use both pieces of a headset, you are closing off one of your vital senses. Your ability to hear what’s going on around you is important. Some dangers while driving are not immediately identified by sight alone and your ability to hear may be your only warning to immediate danger.
First responders, including law enforcement and fire and rescue crews, use their emergency lights and sirens to safely navigate the roadways when responding to emergencies. During daylight hours, flashing emergency lights may not be seen as easily as at nighttime, and the only way to for an operator to be warned of the emergency vehicle is from a siren. The concern is the wail from a siren can be drowned out by an operator wearing headphones in both of their ears.
Additionally vehicles registered in Massachusetts are required to get a safety inspection and part of that inspection requires the horn to be in good working order. The horn, when properly used, is a safety signal device used to warn operators of possible collisions and hazards posed from other vehicles or objects in the roadway. The wearing of headphones removes the effectiveness of those warnings, further leaving a driver oblivious of a dangerous situation.
The use of only one earpiece is acceptable under current Massachusetts law. Frankly, there is no legitimate reason for an operator to be wearing both headphones while driving. The campaign is to inform the public that wearing both headphones or “ear buds” is unnecessary and unlawful. This is a primary offense allowing police to stop and cite motorists when they’re observed to be wearing both pieces in their ears while operating a motor vehicle.
Part of this public awareness effort is the use of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s electronic signboards along highways and secondary roads. The signs are a simple, efficient and cost-effective way to inform the public on this issue and hopefully effect a change in motorist usage of these devices.
Public safety is the primary reason for this message and the goal is to inform operators of the safe, responsible and lawful use of this technology.