Is it legal to drive with headphones on?
Answer: On his way to work each morning, a reader notices drivers wearing headphones in the cars next to him. He wasn't sure if wearing headphones was something he should condone or bemoan.
Brookfield Police Capt. Phil Horter was 90 percent sure that wearing headphones while driving was legal. But he had to double check. After scanning the books, he called back to say that it was legal, per se, but offered an important caveat.
"You've got to remember that there is a statute on attentive driving. It could be possible that somebody got so distracted listening to those headphones that it interfered with their driving, and they could be cited," Horter said.
Horter's referring to a state law that states, "No person while driving a motor vehicle shall be so engaged or occupied as to interfere with the safe driving of such vehicle."
That could apply for many different things, Horter said, including looking at a map, applying mascara, petting the poodle in your lap, eating McDonald's or listening to a book on tape.
Driving with headphones is mostly legal throughout the country, according to the American Automobile Association. AAA points out that regardless of the legality of wearing headphones, it can serve as a distraction and can impair your ability to hear the sirens from emergency vehicles.
According to data collected by AAA, wearing headphones while driving is mostly legal in 33 states — that includes Wisconsin. Four states strictly prohibit it, they include Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland and Rhode Island. It gets complicated with the remaining 13 states, which have provisions that may allow wearing headphones, but only in one ear.
Since I had Horter on the phone, I thought I'd ask him about a couple of other things that always perked my interest.
Driving and texting is illegal, but talking on a phone is permitted. Is it OK to drive barefoot? It is. How about driving while shirtless? Yup, that's OK, too. Well, for men anyway. A woman driving topless is no different than a woman walking in public topless, Horter said, and she could be ticketed for disorderly conduct.
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