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Is Driving With Headphones Illegal?

Is Driving With Headphones Illegal?

Music raises our moods, lessens anxiety, provides comfort, and at times is informative. 

And, every once in a while, you may want to listen to a personalized playlist while driving. Or you may wish to receive a phone call. Playing music in our cars is legal, but what about wearing headphones while driving?

Is it legal?

States, such as Iowa, allow drivers to use their headphones while driving. The practice is illegal in Maryland, Louisiana, Ohio, and Rhode Island. In most other states, wearing any device that lowers your hearing is illegal, but there are some exceptions. 

Read on to find out!

Is Driving With Headphones Dangerous?

Driving with headphones is dangerous as it can lead to distracted driving cases, which are highly punishable in all states. 

Drivers have to be sober and fully aware of their surroundings at all times, especially while on busy roads. 

Wearing headphones and listening to music can cause you to zone out and maybe fail to read a road sign, or you end up running a red light. 

It can also cause you to fail to hear a crossing train siren or other drivers warning you of impending danger. 

Taking your eyes off the road to change the music on your phone or radio can lead to accidents. 

You might even place yourself in danger by failing to hear warning sounds of mechanical issues within your vehicle. 

Being fully aware of your surroundings is crucial for your safety, especially on busy roads. If you’re involved in an accident, the other motorist can claim that your use of headphones contributed to your distracted driving. 

You might end up receiving less compensation or even being charged.

States That Allow Driving While Wearing Headphones

AlabamaMichiganNorth DakotaWashington D.C.
ConnecticutMissouriSouth Carolina
DelawareMontanaSouth Dakota
IndianaNew HampshireUtah
KansasNew JerseyVermont
Kentucky New MexicoWest Virginia
MaineNorth CarolinaWisconsin

You can still get pulled over by traffic officers if they deem that your use of headphones contributes to your erratic driving.

States That Don’t Allow Driving While Wearing Headphones 

Driving while wearing headphones is illegal in the following states

ColoradoNew York
LouisianaRhode Island

However, wearing hearing aid devices or communication devices for emergency personnel is legal.

Exceptions to Wearing Headphones or Earplugs

While wearing headphones and earplugs is illegal in some states, there are exceptions whereby doing so is legal. 

The laws allow individuals with hearing problems and those who operate emergency vehicles or work on construction projects to wear headphones or earplugs.

If you’re unsure, do sufficient research on your local laws to determine when driving while wearing headphones can get you in trouble.

For example, driving while wearing headphones is legal but illegal for child care providers and school bus drivers in Arizona.

In Colorado, Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, it’s only permitted if you’re receiving a call, on the condition that you receive the call on one ear. 

Massachusetts only allows drivers to use headphones if they’re using them for navigation. 

Is Wearing AirPods While Driving Illegal?

Whether you can wear AirPods while driving depends on your state laws; in some states, it’s legal, while in others, it’s illegal. 

Drivers should hear all noises and traffic signals around them, and wearing AirPods hinders their ability to do so. 

Generally, the same laws that apply to driving with headphones apply to AirPods too. Consult your local authorities or department of motor vehicles for more information before you hit the road.

Apple Airpods are some of the best that you can get. It allows you to listen to your preferred music while working on other tasks. 

However, the noise-canceling features of the AirPods mean that you’ll practically hear nothing else outside or inside your vehicle. And depending on the road conditions, this can be a very catastrophic mistake. 

For example, a driver can be charged for negligent driving if they fail to move aside for an emergency vehicle such as a fire brigade or ambulance to pass if they were wearing AirPods at the time of the incident.

Can You Use Your Stereo While Driving?

Absolutely! As much as it’s illegal to use a handheld mobile phone or radio while driving, hearing music through your vehicle’s stereo is legal. 

However, you can still get pulled over if you’re driving dangerously or erratically. Many states recommend using stereo systems over headphones and AirPods for safety reasons. 

As much as it’s legal to do so, you must set your stereo volume to a level that allows you to hear warning sounds in your car and hoots from other motorists. 

Is It Legal to Ride Motorcycles With Headphones?

Regulations on wearing headphones while riding motorcycles vary from state to state. Some states allow riders to wear headphones, while others don’t condone the practice. 

Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, and Washington, it’s legal to ride while wearing built-in helmet headphones. 

Consult your local motor vehicle offices or the traffic office before riding with headphones.

Wearing headphones while riding a motorcycle places you in a difficult position. You’d have lesser chances of making it out alive if you are involved in a severe accident while wearing headphones, especially if you don’t see it coming. 

It’s especially so in red light stops as you wouldn’t hear warning sounds from other drivers or emergency vehicle sirens. Remember, emergency vehicles have the right of way through a red light if it’s deemed safe to do so. 

Additionally, vehicles must give way when they see or hear the siren. A leading cause of motorcycle rider injuries or deaths is a collision with other vehicles or pedestrians. 

And since motorcycles have very minimal or, at times, non-existent safety features, it’s safer if you avoid wearing headphones while riding. 

If you must wear headphones for any reason whatsoever, I’d recommend using built-in helmet headphones. They don’t cover your ear entirely, meaning that you can still hear what’s happening around you while enjoying your music. 


Wearing headphones, earbuds, or Airpods may be legal in many states, but it’s still a dangerous practice. 

If you find that headphones lower your attentiveness and responsiveness or make you unsettled, consider driving without them. 

In the case of an accident, evidence that’s brought forward by other motorists pointing to your use of headphones while driving may result in a negligent driving charge. 

Be on the safe side by limiting your use of headphones while driving, riding, crossing the road, or operating machinery.

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Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!