Walking while wearing headphones could become illegal

Just stumbled upon this article written earlier this year. Apparently a law is being proposed in Arkansas that seeks to make it illegal to use earphones/headphones while walking on sidewalks, as it would supposedly endanger people in the same way as listening to earphones while driving. The rationale behind it is that it cuts people off from their surroundings and makes them less aware of and therefore distracted from dangers that could put them at risk to harm. If this law were passed in my own country, it would cut back a significant part of the time I use for listening to foreign languages. It would be extremely inconvenient. I’m not convinced someone walking along a sidewalk who makes an effort to check their surroundings and to maintain an awareness of where they are will be putting themselves at significantly greater risk than anyone else. I suppose it depends to a fair extent on how loud the music is and whether the earphones are isolating and/or actively block out background noise, but at least for me, someone who listens primarily to the spoken word while walking, it seems more than slightly “nanny-like”. A fair number of the comments seem to be pretty supportive in any case.

The article:

2 or 3 days ago on my way home from work a young man accompanied by his dog was walking on the side walk. Immediately he started to cross the road just in front of my car without noticing me. Just guess what I saw … Not surprisingly he used earphones. So it COULD be dangerous.

It’s a question of divided attention!

Is it really illegal in Arkansas to use earphones while driving or did I misinterpret your sentence? I do most of my background listening when driving, my earphones are small, sound is low. Fiddling with the mp3-player could be dangerous, I grant you, but otherwise I see no danger in listening while behind the wheel.

Sanne, using an FM-Transmitter that send the sound to your radio is a lot saver than earphones. This works quite well for me.

That sounds technical! In future, I might keep one ear free instead (my good one).

No, this is very simple. Or use this: http://www.amazon.de/Philips-DLV2402-Universeller-KFZ-Kassette-Adapter-5-mm-Klinkenstecker/dp/B003BLQ34W/ref=sr_1_2?s=ce-de&ie=UTF8&qid=1314436015&sr=1-2
if you have a cassette player in your car.

Thank you. As I listen to the radio AND the mp3 player (in the background) when driving, I think I shall have to do the ear thing. I shall investigate the FM-Transmitter suggestion, though, just out of interest. My little VW no longer has a cassette player.

Law prohibiting the use of headphones while walking in public sidewalks may seem to be so harsh. But if this is one factor that contributes to the high cases of accident rate then it should be rightfully imposed. In my own opinion, people should exercise caution and be responsible for all of their actions. Earphones may look so small and harmless but it can pose a threat to everybody. It is just on the manner of how you use it. Whenever you use it on public places, exercise checking on your safety first. If the place is too crowded, why not use one earpiece only or perhaps at least tone down the volume. By this, it will still make you aware and attach of what is happening in your surroundings. Everybody is a threat, including people around you whom you do not know and also the unexpected danger we might encounter while using the harmless headset. I witnessed an accident one early morning. A woman in an umbrella was hurriedly crossing the railroad. The handle of her umbrella rests on her shoulders making it impossible for her to see her back. She was wearing her earphones and her music seems so loud that while crossing the railroad she had not noticed the fast approaching train. People around yelled at her but she did not noticed nor heard it. The train came crashing on her and she was dead on the spot. Later she was already on the news and found out that the woman is a single parent of two kids.

There is a connectivity between MP3 player and radio in cars produced within the last three to five years. My experiences with both earphones and hearing over radio during car driving is that I hadn’t been so concentrated during hearing with earphones. Since I have been driving a business car it is additionally not allowed telephoning on a hands-free kit. Personally I welcome this. I guess that same safety idea or experiences had been the reason for the law in Arkansas. In any case is it difficult to judge.

Well, we can be very strict:

You cannot walk if :

  • you have drunk alcohol
  • you are having a conversation
  • you are sleepy
  • you are using your cellphone
  • You are looking at shop windows

  • and the list continues…

Oscar, I feel what you mean and I agree in a large scale. In this case, however, we should not excite about the huge amount of road casualities. Trafic is a dangerous business for all participants. I’ve seen in a TV report recently that the human brain capacity isn’t suitable for complex processes or procedures like traffic and overcrowded situations. Therefore this made a few rules necessary. I guess you never make a cell call in the Jungle. There isn’t any traffic jam but animals and other dangerous situations. So I mean within the jungle and the traffic as well we should be very strict :wink:
It could be better living without earphones than be dead with.


You can’t!!!
At least, believe it or not, you can’t regarding your first gripe.
You definitely cannot walk alongside your bike if you have consumed any alcohol whatsoever, nor indeed can you drink alcohol in public places; in the park, or out in the open, or on the streets in Sweden. Indeed, you cannot really get away with walking in a wobbly manner on the streets if you have consumed alcohol in a bar.
As for number five, didn’t you see the funny youtube clip of a girl who walked into a fountain head first because she was sms-ing on her phone?

It’s all either a question of divided attention or, as in the case of number 1 above, the laws of certain countries.

Wearing headphones while walking in a crowded street is a distraction and makes you less aware of your surroundings, no question about it. A law against it, however, would be like making bicycle helmets mandatory, another thing a lot of people are pushing for; impossible to enforce and therefore pointless. By all means alert people to the risks, but then they just have to make their own judgements.

In California, you can get a ticket for wearing headphones in a car. I believe it is fine if you have one ear free. Not sure what the vehicle code citation is. (Bicycle helmets are mandatory for children here which has saved a lot of lives. Kids think helmets are cool anyhow so it’s not a problem for them.)

I don’t know about Arkansas, but there are so many cars here in San Francisco that it’s dangerous for pedestrians even when they aren’t wearing headphones. And sidewalks are not safe either unless it’s in a park and there are no vehicles. But even then you can get run over by rogue cyclists and they can do a lot of damage to you too.

I understand complaints about the government being too much of a nanny. But anybody who wears headphones in places where they can get themselves killed is asking for trouble. People don’t realize how important their sense of hearing is to their safety. Yeah, you can argue that there shouldn’t be a law but the trouble is that people don’t use common sense and state legislatures decide that they need to do something.

It does get kind of ridiculous but if people don’t like that kind of thing they need to quit acting like morons.

“A law against it, however, would be like making bicycle helmets mandatory…”

Bicycle helmets are actually mandatory for children in Sweden too!

…surprisingly enough, not bothering to wear headphones while talking on the phone in your car is perfectly OK in Sweden.

Unlike other countries in Europe, it’s absolutely fine to hold your phone in one hand and drive past a policeman chatting happily on the phone with only one hand on the steering wheel.

How is someone going to get hit by a car on the sidewalk? If a car is coming at you, it’s their fault not yours. if you are crossing the street, then you should be looking out (vision is the important tool here). If you are hit by a car either you are just being reckless with your EYES, or the driver has lost control of their car or driving like a maniac and killing people. Neither of these scenarios are the fault of headphones. and people need to mind their own business.

I wear headphones when driving. It’s perfectly fine. Hearing is not required to drive.

Are you going to take the right to drive away from Deaf people?
I’ve seen plenty of them driving, ironically with their music turned up loud so they can feel the vibrations.

Let’s take this sense of normality away and make it illegal for deaf people to drive. Let’s also make it illegal to have your music “too loud” when driving. Oh Wait, Make it mandatory to wear a helmet and full body cushions while driving or walking on the sidewalks, that way you can survive any freak accident. Change the building codes to make all rooms padded. Maybe then everyone will be safe from the bright and dangerous world we live in!

and I have seen very few children wearing helmets, and they are certainty not considered “cool” by any definition.

Who said anything about taking the right to drive away from deaf people? Some of my friends have been stopped by the police for driving with headphones. I am not making a judgement about what the police are doing, just stating a fact. If the police where you live don’t stop people for wearing headphones while driving, it’s either not in your vehicle code or the police don’t see it as a problem.

Yes, it would be the car’s fault if it hit you on a sidewalk but I actually meant getting hit when you get to the street and have to cross. Drivers here tend to be very careless and the streets were never engineered for the amount of traffic we have and for the size of the cars. You can look up pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco. Wearing headphones makes things more dangerous for pedestrians because they can’t hear the cars coming. It happens to deaf people too. It’s all very well to talk about how people should look out for themselves, but we haven’t got eyes in the back of our heads.

In California, we have seen many news stories of people being killed by a car when wearing headphones—often it is a jogger on an quiet road. Is it their fault? Well, no, it’s the fault of the driver of the car. But it makes it very easy for the legislature to blame the victim and pass a law that says they shouldn’t be doing such a dangerous thing. You can argue that they shouldn’t be blamed and I guess they shouldn’t. But if you are dead anyhow, it doesn’t matter whether you were within your rights or not. If these people had been able to hear clearly, they might have been able to get out of the way.

I see this as an educational issue, not something for the legislature. But I often see people riding bicycles through town while wearing headphones and I wonder how long they think they are going to live and how anybody can be that stupid.

The real trouble is that a lot of pedestrians are killed here and they weren’t wearing headphones or being foolish. But it tends to be difficult to get traffic calming measures put in or get streets reengineered to be safer for pedestrians which is the real issue. Nobody wants to make things inconvenient for drivers or have to spend money.

Many kids in California love their bicycle helmets. I was at a camp in Yosemite last year and the kids wore their helmets all day, even when not riding a bicycle—some even kept them on at dinner. I have never seen any complaints. Maybe it is because their parents have a habit of enforcing the wearing of them. If there is no law requiring helmets when you live, the kids balk at them because they don’t have any experience with them.

Here they are considering making it illegal to talk to someone while walking on the sidewalk, not to mention talking on a cell phone. It will also soon be illegal to have a shower, if you have consumed alcohol, if the shower is in a public place. All passengers in public buses will be required to put on seat belts and wear helmets. All private home swimming pools will be required to have registered life-savers on duty 24 hours a day as well. These are just some of the measures being planned.