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Ask a Trooper: Driving with earplugs and headphones

Ask a Trooper by Troy Christianson

Question: Is it legal to wear earplugs or headphones driving a vehicle in Minnesota?  Does the decibel rating matter?

Troy Christianson

Answer:  State statue says that no person, while operating a motor vehicle, shall wear headphones or earphones that are used in both ears simultaneously for purposes of receiving or listening to broadcasts or reproductions from radios or other sound-producing or transmitting devices. A hands free device, like a Bluetooth earpiece, is legal because it is only worn in one ear.

There are a few exceptions:

• The use of a hearing aid device by a person who needs the device.

•The use of a communication headset by a firefighter while operating a fire department emergency vehicle in response to an emergency.

• The use of a communication headset by an emergency medical services person while operating an ambulance.

It is important for the driver to be aware and alert to everything that is going on around them.  Listening to music with headphones or wearing earplugs while driving may block out an emergency vehicle’s siren or another vehicle’s horn, possibly causing a crash or reducing the response time for an emergency vehicle. The ability to hear a siren and see emergency lights, in a timely manner, will enable the driver to safety move over and yield to approaching emergency vehicles.

Remember to avoid all distractions while driving as your life and others depend on it.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober.  Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.

A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, at 2900 48th St. NW, Rochester, MN 55901-5848; or reach him at Troy.Christianson@state.mn.us.

Troy Christianson is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.

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