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Is It Legal to Drive With Headphones?

A good set of headphones can help you block out all the noise around you. You might not think twice about putting in your earbuds and listening to music or a podcast while studying or cleaning the house. That’s because these activities typically aren’t dangerous.

However, we’ve seen plenty of drivers donning headphones while cruising down the road. Is it legal to drive with headphones?

Today, we’re sharing what we’ve learned when researching the legalities of driving with headphones. What we’ve found may surprise you! Let’s get started!

Why Do People Wear Headphones While Driving?

There are a variety of reasons why people wear headphones while driving. The most obvious reason would seem to be that they’re listening to music or a podcast. A broken stereo or speakers can make for a painfully long car ride.

Headphones make it easy to fend off boredom while driving. However, that’s typically not always the case.

For years cell phones came with headphones that include microphones allowing users to make and receive phone calls without using their hands. Many states have strict rules regarding using mobile devices while driving to promote safety. Wearing headphones while driving allows drivers to stay legal and safe in some states.

Woman listening to music in headphones
Depending on the state you are driving through, it may or may not be legal to drive with headphones in.

It can be confusing regarding the legalities of wearing headphones while driving. Many rules of the road and traffic laws are left up to individual states.

However, being ignorant of the rules where you’re driving isn’t going to cut it with many law enforcement officers. So if you want to stay on the right side of the law, you need to know your state’s rules and regulations. 

While you might think that many states outlaw wearing headphones altogether, that’s most definitely not the case. Some states prohibit wearing headphones in both ears.

Many of these states allow the use of headphones but restrict them to use in a single ear. Some states allow headphones for navigational purposes only.

While states may not prohibit wearing headphones altogether while driving, some states make exceptions. One of the most significant exceptions to wearing headphones is that the driver isn’t wearing them in both ears.

This ensures the driver can still hear sirens and other important sounds to ensure safety on the road.

States that allow drivers to wear headphones with various exceptions include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington. Because exceptions can vary widely, you’ll want to check with each state to keep yourself on the right side of the law.

Other states have seemingly little or no restrictions for driving with headphones. These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

It’s important to remember that state driving laws change frequently.

Just because a state is headphone-friendly for drivers now doesn’t mean that legislation won’t change. If you’re planning a road trip, you’ll want to brush up on any unique rules to avoid any hassles down the road.

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Woman listening to music in red headphones.
Even if it is legal to wear headphones while driving, make sure they don’t distract you from safely navigating the roads.

Alternative Options for Wearing Headphones While Driving

Regardless of legality, some people simply aren’t comfortable wearing headphones while driving. If you’re one of them, there are a few alternatives that you can use while driving instead of headphones.

Many modern vehicles come with Bluetooth and USB connections. This can allow you to use your preferred digital assistant to make and receive calls, read or send text messages, and so much more. The advantage of using a USB connection is that it will also charge your phone’s battery when connected.

While USB and Bluetooth connections can be great, there is one last alternative that many forget is an option. You can always wait to take a phone call or respond to a text message. It wasn’t that long ago that people weren’t available at the drop of a hat. Not every phone call or text message requires an immediate response. Regardless of the urgency, no phone call or text message is worth jeopardizing your safety.

Pro Tip: Stay safe and calm on your road trip! Find out How Does Road Rage Affect Your Driving Skills and Judgment?

Stay Safe While Driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 3,000 lives are lost each year due to distracted driving. Whether you live in a state that allows headphones or not, safety should be your top priority.

While we understand the temptation to take a phone call or use your phone while driving, the safest option is to wait. We strongly recommend drivers eliminate all distractions from the driver so they can focus on the task at hand. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Have you worn headphones while driving?

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