Peanut butter and jelly, popcorn and movies, hotdogs and baseball games; some things just go together—like cars and music. Whether you go for muscle car-loving classic rock, country music’s truck culture, or hip-hop’s taste for all things fancy, cars and music are connected.
However, as long as the love affair between music and cars has existed, drivers have faced new dangers. Distracted driving crashes have been attributed to every car audio entertainment system from the first car radios, to cassette and CD players, to our current era of auxiliary cords—and headphones.
Here, we’ll get to the bottom of one common question about music and cars: is it illegal to drive with headphones in Wisconsin? Keep reading to find out.
As long as music has played in cars, drivers have been distracted by it in one way or another. This Zenith Radio advertisement from 1942 showcases a product that sought to reduce radio-related distracted driving.
Can You Wear Headphones While Driving in Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, there are no restrictions on driving with headphones in. This is in contrast to 10 states, including our neighbors in Minnesota, where it’s illegal to wear headphones for any reason. In a handful of other states, headphones are only legal in certain cases, such as when used for navigational purposes, if it’s only one ear, or if they’re for a phone call.
In 2015, Wisconsin attempted to pass legislation that would have given motorists driving with headphones a minimum $20 fine, but the bill ultimately failed to pass the State Senate’s Joint Resolution in 2016.
However, just because it’s legal to drive with headphones in doesn’t mean it’s safe. Using headphones while driving can be distracting, even if you’re not taking your eyes off the road to adjust a radio dial.
The Risks of Driving with Headphones In
When a motorist drives with headphones in, they have the potential to be exposed to several risks. Generally speaking, listening to music, a podcast, an audiobook, or any other type of media through headphones reduces a driver’s awareness of what’s going on around them.
As a result, they may be less likely to notice, or take more time to notice things like:
- Crashes ahead of them on the road
- Horns from other drivers
- Sirens from emergency vehicles
Because a driver may be distracted by the audio that’s playing into their ears, it could be considered distracted driving.
How Headphones Can Cause Distracted Driving
There are nearly three crashes per hour in Wisconsin due to distracted driving. Distracted driving can happen regardless of how a motorist is listening to audio content, and headphones are no exception. There are two main ways listening to music can directly cause a motorist to be distracted:
- Manual distractions: This type of distracted driving occurs when a motorist has taken their hands off the wheel to perform another task. Tuning the radio is a manual distraction, as is adjusting headphones or earbuds. By fragmenting their attention, a motorist is less focused on the road—which should be their only priority.
- Cognitive distractions: Listening to music, a podcast, audiobook, or other type of media while driving can take a driver’s mind off the road. If they’re focused on a song, a podcast, or the plot of an audiobook, it can also reduce their ability to drive safely, even if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel.
Hurt by a Distracted Driver? Turn to Pasternak and Zirgibel
Distracted driving comes in many forms. It’s common to think of distracted driving as texting and driving or digging for an item in a bag, but a driver who appears to be attentive is actually distracted.
If you’ve been injured in a car crash and the other driver was wearing headphones, it’s important to mention it to your personal injury lawyer, as it could be essential for winning the damages you’re entitled to. Proving distracted driving isn’t always easy, and you’ll need a personal injury lawyer who’s deeply familiar with Wisconsin laws and is dedicated to your case.
Frank Pasternak and Jeff Zirgibel have the experience and dedication to fight for every penny you deserve so that you can recover in peace and not have to worry about lost income following a crash.
To schedule your free case consultation, contact Pasternak and Zirgibel today.