Jill Kolodner | June 2, 2021 | Maryland Law
Smartphones and other electronic devices are invading every area of our lives, including our motor vehicles. Many drivers use their smartphones while driving. Some drivers go as far as to use their tablets and other electronic devices for texting, watching videos, checking email, posting to social media, and chatting with other people.
Distracted driving is a continuing problem in Maryland and throughout the country. Phone use and texting are the leading causes of distracted driving. For that reason, Maryland and other states have enacted strict laws to restrict the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.
Wearing Headphones While Driving in Maryland is Prohibited
MD Transp Code §21-1120 prohibits drivers from wearing earplugs or headsets over or in both ears while driving. Individuals cannot operate motor vehicles while wearing earphones attached to a tape player, radio, or audio device. There are a few exceptions to this rule.
The law does not apply to people:
- Engaged in the operation of highway maintenance equipment
- Using garbage collection equipment while wearing safety earplugs or a safety headset
- Wearing custom molds or earplugs designed to reduce harmful noise levels, but the wearer must be able to hear a siren or horn
- Wearing a prosthetic device used to aid in hearing
- Operating emergency vehicles under emergency conditions
You may notice that the statute reads “both” ears. Therefore, you could wear an earbud in one ear for cell phone calls. Leaving the other ear uncovered allows you to hear traffic, sirens, and horns.
What Are the Dangers of Wearing Headphones While Driving?
When you cover both ears, you cannot hear sounds that warn you of danger or hazards. Also, your distraction level increases when you have both ears covered. You tend to focus more on what you are listening to instead of driving. Even one earbud can be a distraction.
Therefore, it can be safer to listen to your cell phone or another electronic device through your vehicle’s speakers or the speakers on your device. Remember, any distraction can cause an accident. The best way to avoid a distracted driving accident is to focus on driving the entire time you are behind the wheel.
Who is Responsible for a Distracted Driving Accident Caused by Wearing Headphones?
If the driver wearing headphones caused the crash, that driver is liable for damages caused by the accident. For example, if a driver is wearing an earbud and listening to an audiobook, the driver might become so distracted by the story that he runs a red light. Failing to yield the right of way would be the cause of the crash.
Injuries from distracted driving accidents can be catastrophic. A person may sustain traumatic brain injuries, multiple broken bones, spinal cord injuries, or internal organ damage. Even a minor injury could lead to life-threatening complications or permanent impairments.
The damages caused by a distracted driving crash may include:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Past and future losses of income and benefits
- Decreased earning capacity
- Permanent disabilities and impairments
- Physical pain and suffering
- Cost of personal care
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
The value of your accident claim depends on your injuries and financial losses. Severe injuries and permanent disabilities generally increase the value of a personal injury claim.
What If I Was Wearing Headphones at the Time of the Crash?
Maryland follows the strict pure contributory fault standard for personal injury cases that involve multiple at-fault parties. This standard is the harshest way to approach damages. The victim loses their right to any compensation if they are even one percent at fault for the accident or injury.
Therefore, if a jury found that you were even slightly to blame for the accident due to your headphone use, you would receive nothing for your injuries and damages. Even if the other driver ran a red light and slammed into your car when you had the right of way, you would receive nothing. It is a harsh rule, so your best choice is to avoid wearing earbuds, headphones, or headsets.
If an insurance company alleges you contributed to the cause of your accident, it is wise to seek legal counsel from a Baltimore car accident attorney. An attorney can investigate the car accident to determine the cause and who is responsible.