Is Driving With Headphones Legal?

It depends. Some states have no legislation prohibiting headphone use, while others have relatively strict guidelines. To ensure you stay within the law, we recommend checking with your state DMV.

Driving laws are regulated by your state representatives and your governor, so laws vary from state to state. However, even if driving with headphones is legal in your area, it should be mentioned that it is not considered safe.

man driving with headphones
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Why Is driving with headphones risky?

Driving with headphones is risky for several reasons.

  1. You can’t hear what’s going on around you: When you have over-the-ear headphones or in-ear monitors on, it’s impossible to hear anything other than what you are listening to through the earpieces. Imagine if you couldn’t hear someone honking at you, the sound of children playing, or the oncoming train. Hearing orients us, helps us understand what is going on around us, and helps us focus. When you take hearing out of the driving equation, you increase the chances of driver error.
  2. It requires you to multitask: When you are driving and listening to something on your headphones, you are multitasking. In other words, your brain is paying attention to both driving and listening to your music or program. When you are multitasking instead of focusing 100% on driving, it increases the risk of getting into an accident.
  3. It’s distracting: Have you ever been so into a talk radio program or a musical set while driving that you don’t even remember how you got from point A to point B? While this is a sign of a great audio program, it’s not a great sign of where your attention was while you were driving. Driving with headphones means you are giving most of your thought to what you are listening to rather than how you are driving. This can end in a disaster.

Using headphones while driving is legal in some states and illegal in others, but one thing is for certain—it’s not safe anywhere. Decrease your chances of getting into an accident by committing to not drive with headphones, keeping your eyes and ears on the road, and making safer driving choices in general.

For more information about driving safely, check out our Car Safety Guide.

Celeste Tholen
Written by
Celeste Tholen
Celeste has dedicated her decade-long career to reporting and reviews that help people make well-informed decisions. She oversees editorial strategy and production for SafeWise, with a goal to help people find the information they need to make their homes and lives safer. Prior to SafeWise, she worked as an editor and reporter for KSL and Deseret News. She continues to report on local news as a volunteer with the community paper. For the last six years, she’s led a Girl Scout troop, teaching girls about safety and preparing for whatever life throws their way.

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