Legal Guide

Is It Illegal to Drive With Headphones?

Is It Illegal to Drive With Headphones?

I‍s it illegal to drive with headphones? This is a common question asked by many people. As a driver, you know that your actions have consequences. Everything from texting to eating can affect your ability to operate a car safely, and it’s important to understand all the rules of the road before taking the wheel.

Is It Illegal to Drive with Headphones?

The answer is: it depends on where you live and drive. 

In most states, it is legal to drive with headphones. However, if you reside in a state with a hands-free only law, it is illegal to drive with earbuds in or over the ear headphones.

The rules vary from state to state, but most laws require drivers to have one ear uncovered so that they can hear traffic and emergency signals. When driving with headphones in a hands-free state, keep in mind that many cars have a built-in Bluetooth system. If your car has this capability, you can use a wireless headset to talk on the phone hands-free.

1. States where driving with headphones is legal

It is legal to drive with headphones in the following U.S. states:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

2. States where driving with headphones is illegal (without exceptions):

Many states have laws against driving with headphones that block out other sounds, such as noise-cancelling headphones or earmuffs. Those laws typically stem from concerns about being able to hear potential dangers around you while behind the wheel. Those fears are not without merit: listening to music while driving can impair your reaction time and even your hearing ability in the long term.

Driving with headphones is illegal without exceptions in the following states:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Washington

3. States where driving with headphones is illegal in certain situations:

Some states have exceptions for driving with headphones. The main exception is when your car is pulled over. Other exceptions may include if you’re a medical professional, operating heavy machinery, or if you’re working on an audio recording in the middle of nowhere. Otherwise, there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to driving with headphones.

Driving with headphones is illegal in certain situations in the following states:

  • Arizona: illegal for child care providers and school bus drivers
  • Colorado: illegal unless taking a cellphone call in one ear
  • Florida: illegal unless taking a call in one ear
  • Georgia: illegal unless taking a call in one ear
  • Massachusetts: only legal when used for navigational purposes, such as when using a talking GPS
  • New York: illegal unless used headphones used in one ear
  • Pennsylvania: illegal unless taking a cellphone call in one ear

Is It Illegal to Drive With Headphones?

Penalties for driving with headphones

If you drive in a state where it's illegal to drive with headphones, you might face penalties when doing so.

According to legal experts, you could be charged with a criminal offence if you wear headphones and drive recklessly. In addition to paying a $200 fine and serving 30 days in jail, you could be slapped with a dangerous driving charge, which comes with a $100 fine.

According to personal injury attorneys, If you are wearing headphones and involved in an accident, the other motorist may claim that you are driving dangerously or distracted. This may result in reduced compensation, and in some cases, criminal charges.

How to Stay Safe While Driving With Headphones

Driving with headphones is a risky proposition, and it’s best to limit your use of them to times when it’s absolutely necessary.

When using headphones, make sure that you keep the volume low enough so that you can still hear outside noise. Stay alert and avoid using headphones when driving in hazardous conditions, such as inclement weather.

If you are driving and need to take a call, make sure to pull over to a safe location before picking up the phone. If you are listening to music, try to select tracks that are less likely to have lyrics, as this will help you avoid any potential issues due to lyrics being sung.

Make sure that the headphones fit snugly and comfortably. If they are loose, they will likely fall out, which is dangerous while driving. If you are in a situation where headphones are not recommended, such as in heavy traffic or when children are in the car, try to find a solution that allows you to still enjoy your music but without the risk of using headphones.

Bottom line

Drivers should avoid wearing headphones if at all possible. If you must wear headphones while driving, make sure they are turned down low enough that you can hear sirens, horns, and other noises around you. If you don’t have a choice but to wear headphones while driving, make sure you take proper care of your hearing. And if you start to experience any hearing loss related to wearing headphones while driving, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

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