Sullivan: Driving with headphones, windshield obstructions in Washington

Mar 26, 2024, 7:41 AM | Updated: 1:39 pm

headphones windshield obstructions...

(Getty image file photo)

(Getty image file photo)

It’s another episode of “rules of the road.” I’m here to try and answer a few listener questions that have come up recently.

The first one is about windshield obstructions. A listener hit me up on the Muckleshoot Casino Resort text line asking about driving with her disabled parking permit hanging from the rear-view mirror. She asked me if it was OK to drive like that.

And while this might not seem like a big deal, driving with that disabled parking permit hanging from the rear-view mirror is technically illegal.

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“No person shall drive any motor vehicle with any sign, poster or other nontransparent material upon the front windshield, side wings or side or rear windows of such vehicle which obstructs the driver’s clear view of the highway or any intersecting highway,” RCW 46.37.410 states.

Now, one could argue that a disabled parking permit does not obstruct one’s clear view of the highway, but that comes down to a judgment call. This would apply to a Discover Pass, a game or concert parking pass, a phone holder or even your fuzzy dice.

Considering the amount of people I see driving with many hanging obstructions, I don’t think she has too much to worry about. Of course, you can be pulled over if you have a badly enough damaged windshield. Cracks are an obstruction too.

Headphones while driving

I have seen a lot of people wearing headphones, earbuds and all sorts of listening devices while behind the wheel, and another listener asked about that recently. This person wanted to know if it is legal to drive like that.

The answer is no. It is not legal to wear headphones while driving. You cannot have your earbuds in while driving.

“No person shall operate any motor vehicle on a public highway while wearing any headset or earphones connected to any electronic device capable of receiving a radio broadcast or playing a sound recording for the purpose of transmitting a sound to the human auditory senses and which headset or earphones muffle or exclude other sounds,” RCW 46.37.480 states.

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But here is where we get into a gray area. That same law exempts drivers from “using hands-free, wireless communications systems, as approved by the equipment section of the Washington State Patrol (WSP).”

I’m still waiting to get a definitive answer from WSP on whether wearing one earbud is OK. My best advice is that headphones are a no-go, as well as two earbuds in at the same time.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints here. You can also follow Chris on X, formerly known as TwitterHead here to follow KIRO Newsradio Traffic’s profile on X.


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Sullivan: Driving with headphones, windshield obstructions in Washington