Monday, October 7

Earphone Bigotry?

Motorist with Earphones is Legal in Washington or Texas, Though the Whacked Hood Makes One Wonders About the Wisdom of Same

I’ve had a few posts here previously about earphones. Specifically, I was castigated in bike school for proudly admitting I wore them while riding. What’s more, in a later post, I was further castigated by a commenter claiming distraction was inherent in earphones. Googling “earphone accident,” I’m regaled with page AFTER page of stories about pedestrians and cyclists getting killed, with nary a word about the danger of distracted motorists wearing earphones. What then of today’s post pictures; taken while I was a passenger in a car travelling north on I-5 at 60MPH. We were passed by a motorist wearing earphones who was doing 75. More amazing, the same motorist then looked down for a while to text someone while hurtling down the freeway.

Motorist Texting on the Freeway is ILLEGAL in Washington, but LEGAL in Texas, though the Earphones Themselves are OK Either Place
Of Course, the NEWS Only Bemoans Pedestrians or Cyclists Doing This
Never mind that talking on a cell phone in Washington State while driving (or cycling) is ILLEGAL (unlike in Texas). It seems that looking DOWN while zooming down the road is a step beyond what is “not careless.” I don’t wear earphones when I’m riding up here in Ocean Shores, but neither do I claim that doing so is a “careless” or neglectful act in and of itself, though I think taking one’s eyes off the road while doing 75 in a 4000 pound vehicle is beyond anything I’ve ever seen someone do on a bicycle or walking along any road.
Considering that motorists kill tens of thousands yearly in the US, (and you see motorists talking with earphones on daily despite any and all laws), while those killed by cyclists and pedestrians can be counted on the fingers of one hand, I think this difference in coverage and attitude DOES count as bigotry. For another perspective on cycling and earphones, check out John Allen’s essay; here. One wonders why our society doesn’t including hearing checks as part of the qualification to get a driving license, or why it is acceptable for car companies; kept afloat with the help of billions of my and your taxpayer dollars to brag how QUIET their cabins are. Perhaps I'd be a little more gracious if Specialized and Trek together received pennies on the dollar.
PS: We were TWO lanes over, so the motorist would have had to really go WILD to hit us...


RANTWICK said...

Bigotry (or at the very least hypocrisy) fer sher! I've stuck headphones in without listening to anything on them, just to keep the cold wind out of my ear canal. I don't see why anyone should assume that people with phones in can't hear, I'm guessing many would play their stuff in such a way that they can hear traffic noises as well...

Ian Brett Cooper said...

Earphones are an issue of hypocrisy: the law here in Maryland states that cyclists must not use earphones while riding, yet motorists can't hear a damned thing from outside their cars whether they're wearing earphones or not (which is why their horns must be built so loud that they can startle a cyclist, potentially making him lose control of the bike).

On cold days in winter, I wear a helmet with attached ear muffs - these probably muffle my hearing more than earphones would, yet they are perfectly legal.

As for motorists using earphones, I don't really have a problem with it, because as I say, they can't hear anything anyway. In my opinion, cyclists should also be allowed to use them, for two reasons:

1: because on the rare occasions when I use my earbuds when walking, I find that outside noises can still be heard fairly well - certainly better than they can be heard from inside a car.

2: because hearing isn't all that helpful on a bike. Buildings, vegetation and even curbs can deflect or muffle sounds, so it can be hard to tell where sounds are coming from. Also, weather conditions can greatly affect sound. On the bike, I find my eyes are much more important.

If the law requires cyclists to be able to hear perfectly, then it should also outlaw side and rear windows on cars so that motorists can also hear clearly. If it's important for us, it must also be important for them.

limom said...

I guess them newfangled cars don't come with radios no more.

GreenBici said...

I have used headphones while riding a cycle, when I lived in St. Louis. Not anymore.
I have a speaker attached to a tiny MP3 player, which I use for listening to music.
Not as great as having earphones on, but after seeing joggers and pedestrians, who walk on the trails and MUPs, completely unaware of their surroundings - not knowing that there is a cyclist trying to pass them, who don't move out of my way, unless I yell at the top of my lungs - which in turn offends them, I don't use the noise-cancelling kind (the kind that block out all the outside noise), while riding a cycle or walking, anymore.

Auto traffic in Atlanta is very nutty; aggressive and downright rude, in many cases. Tailgating is a way of life for some.
By comparison, driving in Dallas is a piece of cake.

Peace :)

GreenBici said...

PS. In my younger days, I have seen people driving their cycles listening to a transistor radio :)

cafiend said...

I find headphones very disorienting. If I am going to listen to music, I want to give it my attention. If I am driving or cycling I want to hear my environment. When I started driving I was only comfortable eiththe window down. Otherwise I felt too cut off.

Only ever owning cheap used cars, a luxuriously quiet cabin has never been an issue.

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