Is It Illegal To Drive With Headphones? – Forbes

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Is it illegal to drive with headphones? The answer depends on where you live, as the rules differ by jurisdiction. Even in states where it is not illegal, wearing earphones while behind the wheel could present a safety hazard that could leave you responsible for the consequences of distracted driving.

This guide explains the rules by state so you’ll know what to expect and can make informed choices about using listening devices while trying to drive.

Is It Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving? State-by-State Rules

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In some states, driving with headphones is never allowed. In others, there are no restrictions against it at all. And, in a minority of jurisdictions, driving with earphones is not permitted in most circumstances, but there are exceptions.


States Where It Is Always Illegal to Drive With Headphones

In these states, it is never legal to use earphones while operating a motor vehicle.

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Virginia
  • Washington


States Where It Is Sometimes Illegal To Drive With Headphones

  • Arizona. School bus drivers and those driving for licensed childcare facilities cannot wear headphones.
  • Colorado. You can have a listening device such as a headphone or headset in one ear to take a phone call.
  • Florida.  You can have a listening device such as a headphone or headset in one ear to take a phone call.
  • Georgia. You can have a listening device such as a headphone or headset in one ear to take a phone call.
  • Illinois. You can have a listening device in one ear for any reason, even without making a phone call.
  • Massachusetts. You can only have a listening device in one ear if you are listening to a GPS device.
  • New York. You can have a listening device in one ear for any reason, even without making a phone call.
  • Ohio. You can have a listening device in one ear for any reason, even without making a phone call.
  • Pennsylvania. You can have a listening device such as a headphone or headset in one ear to take a phone call.
  • Rhode Island. You can have a listening device such as a headphone or headset in one ear to take a phone call.

States Where It Is Always Legal to Drive While Wearing Earphones

In the remaining states, driving while using a headset or earphones is always legal. These states include:

  • 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
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

It is important to understand the differing rules because you don’t want to travel to another state with a different policy and find yourself breaking the law.


Is It Safe to Drive With Headphones On?

Regardless of whether it is legal to have earphones or headsets on while driving, it is not a safe practice to do so because:

  • You could lose the ability to hear vehicles around you beeping, emergency sirens, a train approaching or even warnings from fellow passengers about oncoming danger.
  • You could be distracted by what you are listening to and thus less focused on the road and avoiding hazards.

Distracted driving is one of the biggest risk factors for car accidents, with approximately 3,000 people losing their lives annually due to crashes with motorists who are not paying careful attention. Driving with earphones can cause you to focus on the wrong things and make it harder for others to warn you about potential risks.

Some states do allow the use of a headset while driving—at least for limited purposes—because those locations consider it safer to use a listening device rather than to manually hold a phone up to your ear. But, while it is true that hands-free communication can be less risky than taking your hands off the wheel, it still increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents occurring.


What Are the Consequences of Driving with Headphones on?

In states where it is illegal to drive with earphones, the penalties vary depending on the laws in each jurisdiction. In most cases, you could be cited for a moving violation and fined or required to do community service. Depending on the circumstances, you could also get points on your license or even face a license suspension if you are a repeat offender.

If you are using your earphones for a phone call in states that ban cellphone use entirely—which many states do for certain categories of drivers such as bus drivers or young drivers—you could also be cited under your state’s laws prohibiting phone use.

If you cause an auto accident while driving with earphones on, it’s also possible you could be charged with reckless driving and could become responsible for the losses you caused other people to endure in an accident.

The risks of driving while wearing a listening device are simply too high, and it’s best to avoid operating a motor vehicle while wearing any type of headset or earphones so you don’t face legal problems or, worse, cause harm to yourself or others.


What If Someone Caused a Crash While Wearing Headphones?

If someone crashes into your vehicle while wearing headphones, you can report the accident to the police. Get the contact details of witnesses and the at-fault driver, and be sure to let the police know the driver was using a listening device at the time of the accident.

If the incident harmed you, you could pursue a claim to recover compensation for your losses. You may be entitled to payment for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and emotional distress. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you to make your case.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Airpods illegal while driving?

Airpods are illegal while driving in a minority of states. Even when it is not illegal to use these listening devices, it is dangerous. Driving while wearing headphones can be a distraction and prevent you from hearing noise around you. You should be safe behind the wheel. If you cause an accident while driving with headphones, you could be held accountable for resulting harm.

In what state is it illegal to drive with headphones?

It is illegal to drive with headphones in all circumstances in the following states:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Virginia
  • Washington

It is sometimes illegal to drive with headphones in these states. Depending on the state, you may be allowed to drive with only one headphone in, sometimes for any reason and other times only when making a phone call:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island

Why can’t I wear headphones while driving?

In some states, it is illegal to wear headphones while driving, so you can’t wear them without breaking the law. Even where it is legal, it is distracting to have headphones on and dangerous not to be able to hear horns, emergency sirens or warnings from other passengers about impending dangers. You should avoid wearing headphones whenever you are behind the wheel and should focus on the road.

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