High Risks with Headsets and Headphones

05 Sept 2017 News & Campaigns
The trend is unmistakable: More and more road users are using headphones and headsets to listen to music or make calls when on the road. However, many people are clearly not aware that by doing this, they are endangering themselves and others. “People who use headphones or headsets when in road traffic risk missing warning signals and being distracted from what is happening on the roads,” warns DEKRA accident researcher Stefanie Ritter. The consequence of this is a considerably higher risk of accidents.
The fact that it is increasingly common to have something in your ears when in road traffic, is one of the findings in a survey by the German Road Safety Council. According to the survey, around 22 percent of pedestrians and 19 percent of cyclists were out in road traffic wearing headphones at least some of the time in 2015. With young people under 34 years old, this was around one in every two. It is dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers if they are oblivious to the warning signals of another road user who is not directly in their field of vision. “We need not only optical but also acoustic signals and information in order to move safely in road traffic,” says accident researcher Ritter.
The background: With fitted headphones, important signals – whether a car blowing its horn, the bell on a tram or a bicycle, or a warning shout from a pedestrian – are muffled, depending on the volume. “Headphones and headsets bring additional dangers that are avoidable. Therefore, you should leave them off when out in road traffic and put them on once on the bus or on the train.”
Generally, wearing headphones and headsets in road traffic is not legally forbidden in Germany. However, according to Section 23 (1) of the Road Traffic Act, the user is responsible for making sure that hearing is not compromised. In turn, this means that if headphones or headsets impair hearing, they are not allowed. Whether this is the case must ultimately be decided in individual cases.
The fact is that those who miss a police or firetruck siren must expect a fine of EUR 10. It can become even more expensive if you are involved in a crash. The other party can try to accuse the wearer of the headphones of joint blame in the accident. It is also possible that their own liability insurance will reduce its benefits because of gross negligence. Similar rules to those in Germany apply in Austria and Switzerland. In France, on the other hand, all drivers, motorcyclists or cyclists are threatened with a fine of EUR 135 if they are caught wearing headphones or earphones. Wearing headphones is also prohibited for drivers in Spain. In Portugal, and in Italy, only one ear is allowed to be occupied. And anyone in Italy who is caught wearing headphones when driving or cycling must pay a fine of at least EUR 160.