On the road or trail? Use your earbuds safely

July 19, 2023
Man on bicycle near street traffic

There’s been an increase in local road accidents this summer – and earbuds are often the culprit.

Drivers, cyclists, runners, and pedestrians are all at risk of missing important sounds when they use earbuds on the road. One study found that cyclists wearing earbuds missed 68% of the sounds around them – the “loud auditory stop signals” that protect them from traffic.

Nearly 9,000 pedestrians died in traffic and non-traffic incidents in 2021, reports the National Safety Council. It’s been on the rise since 2015, due in large part to distracted walking (looking at your cellphone) and distracted drivers. Pedestrians accounted for about 17% of traffic deaths in the U.S. in 2021.

Not being able to hear what’s going on around you is unsafe, especially on the road or trail.

It’s against the law in Minnesota for drivers to use earbuds or headphones while driving.   

Cyclists, runners, and pedestrians can use earbuds more safely with these tips:

  • Wear a bud in just one ear. The study of cyclists found no negative effects when riders used just one standard earbud.
  • Leave your traffic-side ear free. 
  • Turn down the volume.
  • Don’t choose noise-cancelling devices.
  • Consider bone-conduction devices. These earbuds and headphones are designed for athletes. They transmit sound through the bones of your skull, rather than straight into your ear canal.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings. Listen, and look around. Watch for people traveling in other ways than you: If you’re driving, watch for bikes (especially at intersections). If you’re riding, watch for pedestrians.

Listen up to stay safe on the road and trails.