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Driving while using headphones is a form of distracted driving. Like texting while driving, this can put everyone on the road at risk of a car accident. Unfortunately, the laws surrounding this practice are a bit all over the place. Still, road safety is important because it involves all other drivers and passengers.

The thing that complicates the legality of driving with headphones is that there is no federal law surrounding the practice. Because of this, it’s up to individual states to implement guidelines for drivers. According to The Zebra, there are over 30 states plus D.C. where it is legal for people to drive while using headphones.

Most states with laws on the books concerning driving with headphones don’t outlaw the act. Instead, they make it legal to use a single earbud. For example, states such as Colorado and Florida allow the use of one headphone for any reason. However, some states allow the practice for people to make phone calls while others allow it for the use of GPS.

Driving with headphones
Woman using headphones while driving | Prostock- Studio via iStock

Regarding punishment, states where it’s illegal to drive with headphones have different practices. It’s typically a traffic citation, which would result in a fine. However, people who break traffic laws while using their headphones could get a dangerous driving charge. This would result in an even more expensive fine. In a nutshell, drivers should always check their local laws.

Number of accidents caused by distracted driving

Of course, determining the number of car accidents caused by people using headphones can be difficult. However, this is a form of distracted driving, which a 2023 study by the NHTSA says causes 14 percent of all car crashes. Notably, about 8 percent of car accidents involving fatalities were caused by distracted driving. In 2021, 3,211 fatal crashes involved distracted driving.

It’s not just driving with headphones that federal laws don’t address. It’s distracted driving in general as it’s up to individual states to govern even something as widely discussed as texting while driving. However, many more areas of the country have banned this practice than there are places where it’s illegal to use headphones when behind the wheel of a car.

Overall, it’s important to help protect other people on the road. Luckily, with advancements in technology such as Bluetooth and smartphones, it’s less necessary for most people to need headphones while driving. However, if you’re in a state that allows some form of it, the World Health Organization says that having the volume at 75 decibels or less is the best practice.