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Can I drive legally while wearing headphones?

Regardless of legality, it’s not very safe.

marshall headphones control knob
Image: Matthew Hughes / KnowTechie

Rocking out to your favorite tunes while driving is a great feeling, especially if you have a great stereo installed in your ride. What if your in-car stereo isn’t up to the task, or even worse, someone stole it out of your car?

You might be tempted to use your favorite headphones, paired with your smartphone, to supply the soundtrack to your drive. I mean, you might not get the same level of seat-shaking bass, but then your car won’t vibrate oddly either.

Before you reach for your headphones and your keys, it’s worth checking on the legality of wearing headphones while driving, as your favorite tracks aren’t worth legal troubles. Are you legally allowed to drive while using headphones?

So, is it illegal to wear headphones while driving?

Short answer: It depends on where you are

According to FindLaw, most of the states don’t have any specific laws against using headphones when driving. Thirty-two of them, to be exact, and the District of Columbia. Nine states have specific laws stating driving while wearing headphones is illegal, including Alaska, Maryland, and Virginia. The last eight states including Arizona, New York, and Massachusetts all have laws that prohibit driving with headphones, except in specific cases, such as if only using them in one ear, or when used in one ear for cell phone calls, or if the driver is driving a school bus or is a child care provider.

The thing is, even if your state allows driving with headphones on, you really shouldn’t. The laws around distracted driving haven’t been updated for years, so they don’t take into account things like wireless headphones. If you can’t hear the world around you, how are you going to be able to move out of the way of emergency vehicles, or avoid collisions with other road users?

What do you think? Surprised that so many states don’t have specific laws against this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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