Is it Illegal to Drive With Headphones? A Complete Guide

Sarah Edwards


Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 4 mins

Using earbuds or headphones while behind the wheel might seem like a convenient way of keeping your hands free and maintaining better control of the steering wheel. Using wireless headphones can be especially convenient if you are talking on the phone and your vehicle doesn’t have a built-in hands-free system like Apple CarPlay.

However, before you pop in your earbuds, you should ask yourself, “Is it illegal to drive with headphones?” Depending on where you live, it just might be. Here’s what you need to know.

Is Wearing Headphones While Driving Illegal?

In some places, yes. Only about 20% of states have laws against driving while using earbuds or headphones. Each of these state’s laws vary slightly, but the general rule is that you can’t wear earbuds while operating a motor vehicle. Some laws have exceptions, such as allowing drivers to wear one earbud but not two.

Failing to follow these laws can result in a traffic ticket and increasing car insurance rates. Like the laws themselves, the fine amounts associated with wearing earbuds while driving vary from state to state. Therefore, it’s important to brush up on local traffic laws so you can be safe and avoid fines.

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Is It Illegal to Drive With Earbuds in One Ear?

Most states with laws against driving with earbuds specify that you cannot put a device in both ears. Therefore, you can wear an earbud in one ear in these jurisdictions. However, it’s important to read the details of these exceptions.

For instance, in Florida, you can wear a headphone in one ear if you are using it to talk on your phone. However, the exception doesn’t cover listening to music. Therefore, the legality of wearing one earbud will vary depending on what you are using it for.

Why Is It Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving?

States that have banned wearing headphones while driving typically cite concerns about driver attentiveness and alertness. This argument is reasonable, as it’s tough to hear what’s going on around you if you have earbuds in both ears and are jamming out to your favorite tunes.

For example, suppose that you are wearing a pair of AirPods with noise-canceling capabilities while driving to work. An ambulance pulls up behind you and activates its lights and sirens to get to an emergency. However, you can’t hear it, which means it takes the ambulance longer to get around you and get to the call.

This scenario could play out in many different ways. Suppose that you are approaching an intersection with a green light, but a first responder is attempting to clear it with their lights and sirens. Since you can’t hear the sirens, you proceed into the intersection, and this leads to a car accident. Regardless of the circumstances, being unable to hear what’s happening outside of your vehicle is dangerous.

Where Is It Illegal to Drive With Headphones?

Several states have made it illegal to wear headphones while driving. States with such laws on the books include:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Washington State

However, each state’s laws vary slightly, so it’s important to know the specific requirements in your jurisdiction. For instance, Florida prohibits drivers from wearing a “headset, headphone, or other listening device, other than a hearing aid.” Based on this verbiage, wearing even one earbud that’s not intended for use as a hearing aid would be illegal in Florida.

There are some exceptions, however. Under Florida law, you can use a headset “in conjunction with a cellular telephone” as long as the sound is being emitted into only one ear.

California’s law is a bit simpler, as it prohibits a person from wearing earphones, a headset, or earplugs in or on both ears. However, the law applies to both drivers and bicyclists, whereas Florida’s law does not apply to cyclists. California’s inclusion of cyclists is likely part of larger efforts to address the nation’s rising bike, e-bike, and e-scooter accident rates, which total in the tens of thousands each year.

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Have You Been Hurt by Someone Wearing Headphones While Driving?

If you or a loved one has been hurt by someone wearing headphones while driving, ConsumerShield can connect you with an experienced attorney who can help. Your lawyer will guide you through the lawsuit settlement process and fight to maximize your recovery, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the nature of your injuries.

Getting started is easy. Simply contact us, and we’ll put you in touch with a legal professional who can help.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Currently, Alaska, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington have laws against wearing headphones while driving. Traffic laws can change frequently, so make sure to check your state’s regulations to avoid getting a ticket.

  • In some states, it’s illegal to wear both earbuds while driving. A few states prohibit drivers from wearing even one earbud unless they are using it to communicate.

  • That depends on the laws of your state and how you are using your AirPods. If your state prohibits wearing any type of earbuds or headphones while driving, using your AirPods will likely be illegal as well. However, if your state allows you to have an earbud in one ear, you can legally use one AirPod while driving.

  • Several states have banned wearing earbuds while driving because it prevents you from hearing what’s going on around your vehicle. If you are jamming out to the latest hits, you might not be able to hear things like a horn honking or an emergency vehicle blaring its siren.

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