Is It Legal to Wear Earbuds While Driving? Here’s the Law In Every US State.

Is it legal to wear earbuds while driving?
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Everyone listens to music in the car.  But is it legal to wear earbuds while driving?  Or, headphones?  Here’s the law in every US State.

Please note: this article only covers the law for the United States.  But we’ll be adding the entire world once we figure out those laws!  Also, the law applies pretty much equally to both headphones and earbuds, not to mention newer technologies like Airpods.  

Listening to music while driving makes sense.  Driving without music can lead to insanity.  But, there are regulations on how you can listen to music while operating a motor vehicle in certain states.  So is it illegal to wear earbuds while driving?  We checked with the Automobile Association of America (AAA) for the answer.

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And now, it’s time for a few important safety tips.  

(1) Ask yourself: can I use the stereo system instead?

Just because it isn’t illegal to wear headphones or earbuds while driving, doesn’t mean you should do it.  One huge disadvantage to wearing headphones or earbuds while driving is that it blocks out all external noise.  That makes it harder to detect external issues, not to mention sirens from police and medical emergency vehicles.

In almost every case, using your car speakers is easier, and safer.

(2) If you do wear headphones or earbuds while driving, don’t crank it.

Try to let some noise in.  It’s safer.  Again, just because there isn’t a rule against it, doesn’t mean you should do it.  It’s better not to be deaf while driving.

Safety first.

(3) If you are going to wear earbuds while driving, consider just listening in one ear.

Leave one ear free to hear external noises.

(4) Don’t get distracted by music apps and selections on your phone.

Picking tracks from Spotify while driving on the highway is a horrible way to go.  And tinkering with apps and your tunes while driving is just as bad as texting while driving.  Stay alive: pick a playlist before you leave, and let it ride.

(5) Riding a bike with earbuds is doubly dangerous.

The number one cause of fatalities with bicycles is vehicle collision.  And in almost all of those cases, the bicyclist loses, big time.  Do yourself a favor: ditch the earbuds for the ride.  You definitely need to hear what’s going on around you.


Stay safe out there.  Your friends at Digital Music News.


23 Responses

  1. Bob Smith

    doesn’t really make sense, other than for insurance companies refusing to pay for damages. hearing impaired people are allowed to drive, so it can’t be about hearing sirens.

    • Nick

      No, hearing impaired people are not allowed to drive. It all depend on degree of the impairment. My friend who is hearing impaired could not renew his california drivers license.

  2. Kristina Shugart

    hearing impaired have increased awareness and are alert to watch for flashing lights

    • Lexi

      People who are blind/deaf don’t have increased awareness of any other sense. Stop saying that shit. That myth has been busted. Stop.

  3. anon

    Bob, hearing impaired people don’t have a choice but to drive deaf. The rest of us should take our headphones off.

    • Lexi

      Anon, some people don’t have a fucking stereo in their cars. So those with no radios should be able to drive with headphones on, in those states that allow it ? it is a bitch driving with no music on, and anyone with any sense should not blast their music when driving, so that they can listen to everything else. You don’t determine who the hell gets to listen to music. I live in Alabama, and it’s legal. Deal with it

      • LexiDrivesBetterWhenFullyAlert

        Inconsiderate and a very poor decision to purposely impair ones own senses while operating a vehicle. Your solution to the problem of lacking a car radio shouldn’t be at the expense of others’ safety.

        For your own sake, you may want to consider how easy it will be to point at the impaired driver for fault when involved in a collision; it may not be a sure thing but why give the other guy the extra ammo.

        • NotInconsiderate

          What about motorcyclists? Wind noise at 35mph has been proven to be in excess of 80db — that is well beyond the level that can cause deafness.

          Should I not be allowed to wear earplugs/earbuds specially designed to inhibit wind noise? There are special headphones/earplugs that allow all other noise but only cut wind noise and even those are illegal.

          So instead of flinging around insults such as “inconsiderate” and informing me I am putting other people’s safety at risk, how about actually considering all angles, especially since I’ve never come close to having an accident with someone due them listening to music, but most of them it is them putting on makeup or fiddling with their cellphone.

        • Jake

          You opinionated pos. It’s none of your god damn business. State laws are in place stfu about safety I hear car stereos that would make your ears bleed which IMO is more dangerous because you also can’t feel the emergency vehicles vibrations. As it should be the decision is up to the driver to be responsible about the volume of whatever music source they listen to. Problem solved, problem staying solved now gtfo

      • Al

        Aww that’s cute, the little girl can’t listen to music while she drives… grow up be an adult as you have a lisence and just be a safe driver and stop doing everything out of spite you brat.

      • The Anseer

        There you go Lexi! Putting the importance of your own entertainment in front of the safety of not only yourself but other people too.

        When I had a car without a working radio, I put a boom box on the passenger’s seat next to me. Just had to stow it away when I wasn’t driving.

        Deal with that.

      • Kent

        It won’t be legal in any state for long. Neither will holding a phone in your hand, or texting/emailing/searching while driving, It KILLS people, so will YOU please get a clue, and have a thought for somebody besides Lexi.

  4. Harry Elliot

    In some states, wearing headphones is perfectly legal; in others, it’s 100% illegal; and in many states, the law is a little less clear cut—for example, in some states it’s only legal to wear headphones in one ear, but not two.

  5. Lexi

    Anon, some people don’t have a fucking stereo in their cars. So those with no radios should be able to drive with headphones on, in those states that allow it :)

  6. Jim

    I’m glad to learn it is legal in most states. It never made sense to me that I can’t wear ear buds, but I can buy a luxury automobile that advertises an almost sound proof driving experience with a kick ass sound system. In the long run what’s the difference. I don’t wear the ear buds in city traffic. Have a God blessed day.

  7. Bob

    Minnesota changed the law recently to be able to use one earbud in one ear

  8. Chris T

    With all the people holding their phones texting/talking,listening to music should be the least of concerns..I drive a FedEx truck so I’m higher up and I see at least 25 people a day using their phone..and have seen laptops in some peoples laps as they drive and use them..GTFOH!

  9. Geoff Parker-Dixon

    So let me understand some USA states laws………

    You can legally have a 1000 watt stereo system blasting away obscene levels of volume (and annoying everybody in a 20 yard radius), but I can’t wear foam ear protectors to stop wind noise from damaging my hearing when riding my motorbike (well documented medical FACT)!

    What kind of completely stupid people make these laws?

    • Anonymous

      motorcycle : car…
      motorcycle : car…
      right, apples to oranges comparison! Congratulations on lacking basic logic skills.

  10. Aaron

    If it’s legal in your state but you don’t want to risk becoming deaf to your surroundings while driving you should get some cyclist headphones like bone conduction headphones. You can still listen to music and hear your surroundings. Cyclists use them so that they are more aware in the road but still be able to listen to music.