When we hear the word distracted driving in Rhode Island, we often think about texting and driving. Did you know that it is also illegal to wear earphones and headsets while driving not only a car or motorcycle, but also a bicycle? Rhode Island General Laws section 31-23-51 provides in relevant part: “no person shall operate a bicycle or motor vehicle upon any highway while wearing earphones . . . .”
Think twice about riding a bicycle with earphones on for two good reasons: 1) If you wear earphones while riding a bike, you could subject yourself not only to a hefty fine, which gets progressively more expensive for second and third offenses; and 2) if you are operating a bicycle and something goes wrong, for example, you are hit by a car, the insurance company for the automobile is very likely going to argue that you were distracted and will then attempt to blame you for the accident because you were wearing the headphones at the time of the accident. If you are cited for wearing the headphones, this may even come into evidence in support of that argument. This would have an impact on the value of your case, and is a position that you do not want to find yourself in, especially if you suffer serious injuries as the result of being struck by a vehicle while riding a bicycle.
A similar scenario happened to a client of mine who was riding his bicycle across an intersection when he was struck by a vehicle making a right turn that did not stop for the traffic signal. My client was wearing headphones at the time of the accident. While I was able to get a recovery for my client for his injuries based on other facts that were in his favor, including an independent witness, (who corroborated that my client was wearing headphones, but that the automobile driver did not stop) the insurance company made a significant issue about the fact that the cyclist/my client had headphones on at the time of the accident, and downplayed the fact that the driver of the car did not stop for the traffic signal, or look before making a right turn. So, my simple advice is to be as safe as possible when riding a bicycle, and don’t wear earphones. Otherwise, you might find that you are facing a fine or even worse that you are being blamed for an issue that may or may not have anything to do with the accident. And if you or someone you know has been injured as the result of someone else’s negligence, please contact me to discuss the case, protect your interests, and obtain the compensation that you deserve.
By: Glen R. Whitehead, Esq.