It’s Modern, It’s Hands-Free, and It’s…Illegal In New York State?
You're driving along in your car, and your phone rings. You could reach down and grab your phone, and hold it against your ear, but as most drivers know, that's very unsafe.
Instead, you tap on the side of your wireless earbud, and the phone call is transmitted directly into your ears. You can hold your business call, or personal call, without taking your hands, and eyes off the road.
It seems relatively reasonable, doesn't it? Well, that may be the case, but the State of New York may not completely agree.
Can You Wear Headphones and Earbuds While Driving in NY?
As it turns out, the ability to wear headphones while driving varies by state, and depending on said state, there are some grey areas that drivers will have to be aware of. In New York, it's not completely illegal to wear headphones, but there is an important caveat to the rule. More on that in a moment.
If you're travelling out of state, the states you are allowed to wear headphones while driving in (without any exceptions) are: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. This information comes from the Austin American-Statesman.
Meanwhile, it is completely illegal, no questions asked, to wear them in these states: Alaska, California, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington State.
Now, let's get to New York. They fall somewhere in the middle of the two, in a grey area. New Yorkers are allowed to wear headphones, but only in one ear. You cannot wear earbuds in both ears; that is considered illegal in the state.
In my opinion, New York is in the perfect position when it comes to this ruling. Making earbuds completely illegal, in my mind, is unnecessary, as many Bluetooth-capable earbuds can benefit drivers who do not have cars equipped with Bluetooth. That said, allowing (and wearing) earbuds in both ears limit a driver's ability to hear things going on on the road, including car horns, emergency vehicle sirens and much more.
So, if you're on the Northway, the Thruway, or one of the other countless roads in New York State, and someone calls you, feel free to pop in an earbuds to talk to them without using your hands.
Just make sure you keep the other earbud in its case. It's the law, after all.