Is It Down to the Wire?

You’ve doubtless seen articles and social media posts about the release of the new iPhone 7.  One of the most talked about features is the lack of a headphone jack and the new AirPods (wireless earbuds).   Companies are trying to keep up with the demand for the newest and best technology and most consumers prefer wireless.

Convenience and technological advancements aside.  An often overlooked law is the fact that in Maryland it is illegal to drive with earphones in both ears or headphones covering both ears.  The Maryland Transportation Article Section 21-1120  says you “may not drive a motor vehicle on any highway…in this State” while wearing over or in both ears a headset or earphones attached to a radio, tape player, or other audio device.

Some may want to argue what the term “attached” means.  Does there have to be a physical attachment by the use of wired headsets or earphones?  Is it okay if you use wireless earphones or headsets and have both ears covered?

The answer is “no.”  The use of bluetooth or wireless headphones or earbuds in both ears is a violation of Maryland law and punishable by a fine of $45.00 and 1 point on your license.

The rationale behind this law is that having both ears covered prevents you from giving full focus and attention to driving.  Some experts have even referred to it as a form of sensory deprivation while operating a motor vehicle.  In 2015, Maryland had 520 traffic fatalities.  This was nearly a 20% increase from 2014 and ended a downward trend in traffic fatalities in Maryland from 2007-2014  (30% decrease from 2007-14).  Nationwide, there were 38,300 traffic fatalities in 2015.  This represented an 8% increase from 2014.

Understandably, police are continuing to crack down on distracted driving and the lack of a wire from your headset or earphones to your phone won’t save you from a ticket, a point on your license and a possible court appearance.  There is no need to make the road anymore of a dangerous place than it is already.  The next life you save by reducing your distractions while driving could be your own.