Is It Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving?

Have you ever wondered whether or not it is illegal to wear headphones while driving? The answer depends on your location. It is essential to know that using headphones while driving could be illegal in your state. Though it’s an easy way to take phone calls or listen to music in a vehicle without Bluetooth or USB connectivity, headphones can also be dangerous for drivers.

In what states is it illegal to wear headphones while driving?

Headphones inside a person's ears. It can be illegal to wear headphones while driving in some areas.
Headphones In A Person’s Ears | Ian Waldie/Getty Images

There are a select number of U.S. states where wearing any headphones is entirely illegal. Those states are Maryland, Louisiana, Ohio, and Rhode Island. In these particular states, a police officer needs no other reason besides seeing headphones in a driver’s ears to pull them over. Some other states have rules against headphone-wearing, but it is not entirely illegal.

For example, in Pennsylvania, hands-free single-ear phone call earpieces are legal, but two-ear headphones or earbuds are not. Drivers can easily disguise two-ear audio systems as single-ear headsets by simply wearing one earbud. Pennsylvania drivers certainly have more leniency than other states as far as being spotted wearing headphones by police. Most states abide by the same rules as Pennsylvania, mainly to avoid discouraging hands-free phone calls and keep people off their devices.

What makes wearing headphones while driving dangerous?

A man driving a taxi in London wears headphones while driving, which could be illegal in some areas.
A Driver Wearing Headphones | Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images

It’s recommended that you refrain from wearing headphones while driving, even if it isn’t illegal in your state. According to DriveSafeOnline, the number of pedestrians who have been hit by a car while wearing headphones has more than tripled since the year 2000. If it’s a distraction for pedestrians, it’s undoubtedly one for drivers as well. Being able to hear your surroundings is almost as important as eyesight while driving.

Mainly, car horns, police sirens, and more similar sounds are essential to be aware of while behind the wheel. Think of any time someone accidentally drifted into another lane in front of you, and you laid on the horn. Now, imagine that person didn’t hear you and just kept going right into the side of your vehicle. That’s just one dangerous scenario that could take place because a driver is wearing headphones.

Accidents could be your fault, just because of the headphones

A person wearing headphones while driving a scooter, it could be illegal to wear headphones while driving in your area.
Person Wearing Headphones Drives Electric Scooter | NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images

If the state in which you’re driving deem wearing headphones while driving illegal, you’ll be at fault in an accident. However, even in states that don’t make headphones illegal, it could flip the switch against you. An accident taking place that is not your fault could change because of the driver wearing headphones. Any evidence provided by another party proving the driver is wearing headphones during an accident could result in a negligent driving charge.

Even if it doesn’t flip the accident to be ultimately your fault, it’s going to cause extra fines and charges no one wants. Even if it is perfectly legal in your area, wearing headphones while driving isn’t worth the risk. The music or other sound in your ears is distracting whether you realize it or not. It can easily distract you in high-risk situations and prevent drivers from taking defensive precautions.

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