Is It Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving?

Listening to music while driving is great, but you have to watch the volume. Cranking the volume up may lead to noise complaint violations and tickets, not to mention angry drivers. Some drivers try to get around this by wearing headphones while driving. But this may also be a bad idea. As it turns out, while it might not be illegal in some states, wearing headphones while driving can count as distracted driving.

While wearing headphones while driving a car or operating a motorcycle may not seem like as much a distraction like a cell phone, AAA warns that it can be. Earphones, wired earbuds, and wireless earbuds can provide noise distraction, and some models can eliminate outside sounds, leaving you unable to hear traffic noises. These noises can be important sounds, such as sirens and train warnings. 

On motorcycles, this distraction and lack of the sense of hearing can be doubly dangerous. Motorcycles are inherently dangerous by design, leaving little protection for the operator or the passenger. Combine this with the fact that other drivers often do not see motorcycles until it is too late, it is important to have your ears free to hear the traffic and other sounds around you.

According to statistics, distracted driving is responsible for the deaths of at least nine people every day. This comes to about 3,500 fatalities each year are caused by drivers who are using their cell phones, eating, switching the radio station, petting their dog, or dealing with other distractions. The economic impact of distracted driving is mind-boggling, costing $40 billion per year. 

Only 14 states have some form of restriction on wearing earplugs, earbuds, or headphones while driving. Four states have complete bans unless the device is used to correct a hearing problem. Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan have no restrictions on wearing headphones or earbuds while driving. 

According to the AAA website, many states have laws that prevent wearing headphones covering both ears, while other states allow both ears to be covered or plugged. Some states have restrictions on allowing the headphones to be worn while playing music but have no limits on those used for communication. 

Each state will have specific laws regarding the wearing of headphones on a motorcycle, but some states allow for earphones built into motorcycle and bicycle helmets. Always be sure to follow state and local regulations when it comes to wearing a headset or earbuds while driving. 

Even though it may not be illegal to wear headphones while driving or operating a motorcycle, keep in mind that negligence laws will still apply. If you’re in an accident while wearing headphones, an attorney may be able to argue that you were distracted, which means that you are liable for the accident. It can also mean that even if the other person was at fault, you might not be able to obtain damages. 

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