Can I Wear Headphones While Driving

drive with headphone

Most drivers listen to the radio while they are driving, but some people use earbuds, headphones, or headsets to use audio devices or make phone calls while they are driving.

Headsets, earbuds, and headphones can obstruct a driver’s hearing and raise the likelihood of an accident. Driving while wearing headphones is prohibited in some states, but it is still permitted in others.

Where Is It Illegal to Drive With Headphones?

Most states will permit driving while using earbuds, headsets, and headphones as of July 2021.

Driving while wearing headphones is forbidden or restricted in seventeen states. These states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington. In Illinois, for example, it is illegal to wear headphones or earbuds while driving, but Bluetooth and other hands-free listening devices are permitted if they only obstruct one ear.

All other states, including Wisconsin and Iowa, do not forbid using headphones while driving.

However, just because wearing headphones while driving is permitted in most states doesn’t mean it’s safe to do so.

Driving With Headphones Can Be Dangerous

According to a study, distracted drivers are less responsive.

The study uses an app that plays “8D” spatial audio, which seeks to create realism through precisely controlled panning and equalization. When combined with a virtual reality street, this 8D audio produces sound cues that study participants were then asked to recognize. For instance, they were asked if they could hear an ambulance coming up behind them.

Both those who had music playing in their headphones and those who did not play the cues. It was discovered that those who wore headphones to listen to music took an average of 4.2 seconds longer to recognize cues than those who did not. Although it may not seem like it, 4.2 seconds is practically an eternity when compared to the time it takes to avoid colliding with a bicyclist.

In the study, 2,000 participants said they would no longer use headphones or earbuds while driving any kind of vehicle, with 44% of those people saying they would. Ford is making the app available to everyone, so you can try it out for yourself, and hopefully, it will change your mind. If you think this sounds like a bunch of nonsense, the good news is that it will hopefully change your mind.

“Sound plays a vital role in our ability to understand our environment—we very often hear important events happening around us before we see them,” Maria Chait, Ph.D., a professor of auditory cognitive neuroscience at University College London, said in a statement. “While headphones can be helpful to us in many situations, they can also make it difficult for us to hear important sound cues when we are driving, which could make it dangerous for both us and other drivers.”

Can You Wear Headphones While Riding a Motorcycle

The use of earplugs by motorcycle riders to muffle engine noise will have a similar effect of reducing the awareness of other noises.

Is it risk-free, though, to ride a motorcycle and play music? Without the distraction of music, riding is safer. Driving or riding a bicycle while wearing headphones in BOTH ears is prohibited in California and many other states. The use of an earbud or headphones in one ear is permitted. Motorcycles are a part of this. Many places forbid motorcycle riders from using headphones while riding. Wireless earbuds make wearing headphones by motorcycle riders the simplest option. There are specialized motorcycle earbuds with excellent audio and sound quality that can help reduce outside noise in addition to wearing headphones and hearing aids. For taking calls while riding, Bluetooth headphones are a great option. Motorcycle helmets that cover the entire head must be worn with in-ear headphones, while half-helmets are better suited for earbuds. It is beneficial to produce background noise, hear car horns, and use noise cancellation at the same time. While using headphones, drivers must obey all local laws. At all costs, wear a helmet to prevent damage to the built-in headphones and yourself. While riding a motorcycle, wearing headphones and hearing aids has both pros and cons. To effectively create ambient sounds and adjust volume while riding, motorcycle headphones have special earbuds with long battery lives. Because they do not endanger the ear canal, foam earplugs are beneficial.

It is noisy to ride a motorcycle. Particularly if you have loud pipes, you have to contend with wind noise and engine noise. Any additional audio entertainment, including music, will only amplify the din.

If You’re Hurt in a Crash With a Driver Who Was Wearing Headphones

The use of headphones by the other driver while driving may be important to your ability to recover from an auto accident. In light of this, you ought to record it at the scene of the collision and inform your knowledgeable personal injury attorney of it as soon as you can.

If the driver of the vehicle was using earbuds or a headset at the time of the collision, your accident lawyer can investigate the cause of the collision and ascertain whether or not the driver was distracted. Then, with the aid of your attorney, you can obtain just compensation for your accident-related pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, and other accident-related damages.

Ways You Can Make Wearing Headphones While Driving a Little Safer

Even if they are aware that their driving is unsafe, not everyone is willing to change. But there are a few ways you might be able to make this risky practice a little bit safer when it comes to wearing headphones while driving. “The first thing would be to only put one earbud in,” MUñOZ RECOMMENDS. “Remove the left earbud to keep your focus on the sounds of traffic in your blind spot.”

This could put you on the right side of the law in some states, the driving safety expert claims. This is due to the fact that, according to Drive Safe Online, many states that forbid the use of headphones while driving—like Georgia and Florida—actually enforce a one-ear rule. As long as the earbud or Bluetooth wireless headphone is only in one ear and the other is free to listen for outside sounds, you are permitted to use them while operating a vehicle.

Just turning down the volume is one more suggestion to make this practice safer. “Turn down any music that is blaring through your headphones. Of course, for many people, this might defeat the purpose of wearing headphones in the first place, and if so then I suggest you ditch the headphones altogether—you can still sing along to the car stereo,” Muñoz says.


In many places, it is actually against the law to drive while wearing headphones or earbuds, but even in those places where it is legal, it is still not a good idea because it impairs your spatial awareness.

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