Is It Illegal To Drive With Headphones?

Driving with your favorite songs on can be a way to make an ordinary journey more enjoyable.

Recently, it has become popular to use some form of wireless headphones to take calls or listen to music. 

Is It Illegal To Drive With Headphones

While this is illegal in some states, it is legal in others, as you could still be pulled over if a police officer feels that you aren’t in control of your vehicle for whatever reason, and you could be penalized.

Find out what the law says for each state and why it may not be such a good idea to drive while using headphones below. 

Where It Is Illegal? 

In these states, if you are caught using headphones, it’s a good chance you’ll be pulled over and be given a citation or a ticket that can cost around $100 or higher, and this can be worse if you’re involved in an accident or break a traffic law.

You can also be charged for negligent or distracted driving, which can be around $162 or a maximum fine of $1,000 for subsequent offenses. 

These states include Alaska, Washington, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, California, Ohio, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Virginia. 

Are There Any Exceptions? 

None of the above states give much leeway when using headphones for music, navigation, or when taking a call, as the law applies to motor vehicles that cover a wide range of transportation.

People who drive buses or taxis aren’t exempt from this.

However, some states have made headphones illegal, but there are some exceptions, as states like Arizona make headphones illegal only to school bus drivers or others who transport children to educational or care facilities.  

These exceptions go further, as some states allow people to use headphones to take a call as long as they only cover one ear. These states are Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.

This extends to New York, as you only need to cover one ear, and this doesn’t need to be for a specific purpose, while in Massachusetts, you can only use headphones if you are using them to listen to a GPS. 

Where Is It Legal?

There are 32 states where no laws prohibit or restrict the use of headphones for a specific purpose. These states include Idaho, Alabama, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Texas, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and Delaware, among others. 

Even though they are legal here, there is still a chance that you can get pulled over for careless driving or they cause you to have an accident, however minor or significant, and this can also affect how much you are compensated for damages when going through insurance. 

So while you can use headphones in these states, you are in the category of unsafe driving as an essential sense is distracted, leaving you in a vulnerable position in legal terms. 

How Using Headphones Can Be Dangerous 

Research has been carried out in this area, and it has been revealed that some distraction causes 1 out of 10 deadly car wrecks in the US, and it is said that eight people are killed every day by distracted driving. 

These might not be surprising statistics, as when a driver’s attention is distracted by loud and continuous sounds from headphones, they may need help to hear external sounds that can alert the driver to potential hazards.

This means a driver may have a few seconds to spot the hazard and prepare to stop or control the vehicle to avoid hitting a pedestrian or making contact with another vehicle, especially if these initial actions are quick and unexpected.

Other Considerations  

Before you set out, you should ask yourself if you really need headphones while driving, so if you’re expecting an important call, for example, you should ideally be in a place where you can take it, or you could connect your phone so that you can answer hands-free.

Is It Illegal To Drive With Headphones (1)

While this is still unsafe and is considered a distraction, you can also ask a passenger to take the call or answer the call through Bluetooth for you so you don’t avert your eyes or mind from the road. 

If you need to set up a navigation system, you should do this before you set off, and if any issues occur, you should find a safe place to park and adjust it then.

Plus, knowing your route beforehand means you have more confidence when driving. 

If you have technology in your car, like a touchscreen infotainment system, you want to limit your use while driving, as some of these features can be considered low in your priorities while driving. 

Benefits Of Not Using Headphones 

As we have said, if you are in an accident that involves you being distracted, this can lower the amount you claim on insurance, and that loss can have a major impact on your wallet if you need to do any expensive repairs. 

It could also help your hearing, as you may be tempted to raise a song to a higher level, and over time, your hearing can be impaired as while driving, you could miss a slight noise that could signal a hazard or a fault that is on your car.

This is especially the case for newer drivers, as their reaction times and knowledge will be less than for a more experienced driver, plus insurance costs for a new driver can be higher, so you don’t want to raise it even more. 


These laws generally allow for devices like hearing aids.

Still, you may have to check with your local state’s laws to see the specifics of these laws, as some can be more ambiguous than others, so at least you have all the bases covered when understanding what is allowed.  

Besides, there are many other places where you can use your headphones and get the most from their features.

Garrett Jones

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