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State Patrol encourages 'ears-free' driving, walking

6:03 PM, Jan 18, 2012   |    comments
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DENVER - New research links headphones to a huge spike in pedestrian deaths. The data, from the University of Maryland, says in the past six years, serious injuries to pedestrians listening to headphones has more than tripled.

While walking with headphones on isn't illegal, it's a different story for drivers.

9NEWS found plenty of drivers in Denver driving around with earphones on.

"We believe it to be a serious offense," Colorado State Patrol Trooper Nate Reid said.

According to a Colorado statute, drivers in Colorado cannot have both ears covered with headphones or ear buds, regardless of whether drivers are listening to music or on the phone.

"We want one to be open so you can hear alarms, whether it be from emergency equipment or from a train," Reid said.

Technology has created more devices to use headphones and it has also made the headphones better.

"The headphones have come so far, they have noise cancelling headphones," Reid said.

Another concern for law enforcement is pedestrians wearing headphones.

According to new research from the University of Maryland, 70 percent of headphone-wearing pedestrians died after being hit by cars or trains.

Just two months ago, 21-year-old Laura Triem was hit by a light rail train in Denver leaving her critically injured. Her mom says she had her earphones on and only looked one way.

Triem not only survived the light rail accident, but continues to defy the odds in her recovery. Recently, she was released from Denver Health Medical Center and is in a recovery facility going through rehabilitation. This week, she was able to stand up on her own for the first time. Her family considers every day a miracle. The medical costs are significant, so friends of the family are hosting a silent auction on Saturday, Feb. 4. You can participate and help by going to

Law enforcement officers say it's best to be hands free and ears free for pedestrians and drivers.

"With two ear buds, if you can't hear something, that's going to keep you concentrated on that one singular thing, whether that be a song or somebody talking to you on the phone," Reid said.

The citation for driving with headphones on is $22, but if police observe a driver being reckless or careless because they're distracted, those fines and penalties are much worse.

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If you have a story about distracted driving you would like to share with us, or if your company or office has decided to sign the pledge as a team, email 9NEWS Anchor/Reporter Eric Kahnert at

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