Is it Legal to Wear Headphones While Driving?

Is it Legal to Wear Headphones While Driving


Wearing headphones to listen to music is extremely common. People wear headphones in their own home, while traveling on a bus or train and even just walking down the street. But what about when you’re driving? What should you know about wearing headphones while driving before you decide to do it? The truth is that there is an extremely important aspect to consider. Are headphones driving legal? The answer is, it depends.


Is it Legal?

There is no real short answer to this question. The real answer depends on where you live. Some states have outlawed wearing headphones, while others haven’t. Some states that haven’t fully outlawed it have put some limits on headphones. Take a look at the states where it is illegal and where there are restrictions.




Completely Illegal


Completely Illegal


Illegal except built-in motorcycle headphones

Rhode Island

Completely Illegal


 Illegal except one ear hands-free devices allowed


Illegal except navigational purposes


Illegal for school bus drivers and daycare transportation


Illegal except for protection against high noise level


Illegal when used in both ears


Completely Illegal


Illegal except for communication purposes


Illegal except required for vehicle operation


Completely Illegal

New York

Completely Illegal


Illegal except built-in motorcycle headphones


Some regional laws


Illegal except for communication purposes


Illegal except built-in motorcycle headphones


Illegal except hands-free communication or built-in motorcycle headphones


What this means is that many states actually allow you to use headphones while driving. Make sure you pay attention to your own state or regional rules. You’ll want to know if it’s legal in your area. But even if it is you’ll want to take a closer look below.


What Are the Penalties?

The penalties for driving with headphones will vary based on each state. States that do have laws against it have a range of different penalties as well. Make sure you know the laws of the state you live in. Also important is knowing the laws of states you drive through. The fact that your state has different rules is not enough if you get pulled over.

In general, most states consider a violation as a traffic infraction. That means that it’s considered the most minor type of infraction that you could make. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be off the hook, however. You’ll have fines and potentially points on your license if you’re caught. The cost can vary based on the state and their specific rules.

While the fine will depend on whether you’ve been pulled over for the same thing multiple times, it is around a couple hundred dollars. It also gives you a minor amount of points. Those points are important to your license. Too many points and your license will get it taken away. That means you need to be careful about what you do. Driving with headphones may not seem that big of a deal. In some states, however, it definitely is.

Even more important, you could end up with legal fees or causing injury to yourself or others. This happens when you don’t pay attention and get into an accident.

  • Pay careful attention to the possible penalty:
  • Points on your license
  • Monetary fine
  • License taken away (if you have too many points)
  • Potential danger to self or others
  • Potential danger to property
  • Monetary suit


How Headphones Put You In Danger

Regardless of whether wearing headphones is legal or not, it’s important to pay attention to safety. Wearing headphones while driving is actually dangerous. That’s because wearing headphones actually takes you away from what’s happening.

How often have you worn headphones and not heard the people around you? When you’re sitting at home or at school this may not be a problem. When you’re driving, however, hearing things around you is even more important. If you’re not listening you might not notice:

  • Horns warning of danger
  • Sirens from emergency vehicles

Another problem is that someone wearing headphones is generally distracted. That distraction can be extremely dangerous while driving because:

  • May not see other vehicles coming
  • May not see dangers in the road
  • May not see children or other pedestrians
  • May not see emergency vehicles
  • May not see lights or signs

The most important thing is that someone who is driving with headphones is not paying attention. It’s not possible to give your 100% devoted attention with headphones. When driving that’s an extremely big problem. You need to be focused on what’s happening while driving. Take a look at the safety tips we’ve created to help you stay safer.


Important Safety Tips

If you absolutely must wear headphones while driving each of these tips is going to help you. These will make sure you’re at least somewhat safer while driving.

  • Use Only One Earbud – One of the best things you can do is make sure you only use one headphone. Covering only one ear leaves you able to hear some of what is happening around you. It means that you have a little bit of a balance to go on.
  • Pay Close Attention to the Road – It’s important to look at the road and the signs around you. The music in your ear should be a background, not a focus. Don’t exclude everything else while you’re listening to your music.
  • Opt for Hands-Free – If you can go for a hands-free option to listen to music or even talk on the phone. These devices may even allow you to go without headphones at all. They will help you still get phone calls as needed but not the block in your ear.



There are plenty of states that will allow you to wear headphones driving. That doesn’t mean that you should do it, however. You should make sure you pay attention to the road around you. Driving is a complex task and if you’re not careful it could be dangerous. Distracted driving is one of the biggest causes of accidents. Using headphones is one type of distraction you can avoid. Is it legal to wear headphones while driving in your state? And even if it is, should you really be doing it anyway?

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