Is Driving With Headphones Legal in South Dakota?
What law am I breaking in the selfie above? If you said "not wearing a seatbelt" you would be correct. If "wearing earbuds behind the wheel" was your answer you are incorrect.
After the gym, I pulled into the parking lot of the station and a co-worker stopped me.
"Wearing headphones are illegal," she said.
"OK," I replied, not knowing if it was true nor caring to debate the issue.
After I parked I took the selfie. I had failed to buckle my seatbelt for the 2 block drive back from the gym. I normally do, just forgot this time. But after some Googling, I found that it is in fact not against the law in South Dakota to drive with headphones on. I found another co-worker's post from last year that mentioned the same thing. It is also legal in Iowa and Nebraska.
Headphones are illegal in Minnesota if used in both ears. The law isn't exactly explicit in allowing one headphone or earbud on and the other off, so I guess that means leaving one out still is not legal.
I debated the topic with friends before. "You need to be able to hear when you're driving," is what they usually say. There is no law saying you can't blast your radio with subwoofers unless you violate a noise ordinance. A booming system, I would argue, would make it far more difficult to hear a siren than one earbud in at normal listening volume.
My response to this is always the same: "Deaf people can drive."
I understand that hearing is a sense that can help you avoid an accident. I don't deny that. But having your eyeballs functional and pointed at the road and traffic is far more important. Refraining from texting or posting on Snapchat or whatever with your phone, an activity that takes your eyes off the road, is far more detrimental. If hearing was so essential to the safe operation of a vehicle it would be a requirement. But it isn't.
I'm going to keep rocking my Bluetooth buds while I'm driving because it's not illegal and not inherently unsafe. I'm also going to keep using my turn signal even though it's optional, right?