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Can you wear headphones while you drive?

If you’re driving alone and you want to listen to music or a podcast, you just turn it on over the car’s stereo system. But what if you’re driving with someone else? And what if they don’t want to listen to the same thing?

Say you’re driving with your child in the car. They’re watching an iPad and they want to hear it. You want to listen to an audiobook. You can’t play it over the car’s speakers or neither of you will be able to hear well, so you just put your headphones on and listen to your audiobook that way. Is this legal?

It may depend on whether you’re keeping at least one ear out for traffic

What you’ll find is that the legality of your actions depends on how many ears you cover. If the headphones are just on one side, that’s legal. If they cover both ears, that is not. 

The issue is that you still need to be able to hear the traffic around you. Wearing headphones on both ears is seen as too much of a distraction. It could cause an accident. Wearing them on only one side allows you to hear whatever is being played and still hear the traffic around you, so that’s seen as safe enough. 

The big reason for this law is likely that you could encounter emergency vehicles. If a firetruck needs to get through, for instance, they don’t want you to fail to pull over to the shoulder because you couldn’t hear the emergency siren. 

What happens if you make a mistake?

People make traffic mistakes all the time. If you happen to be pulled over for a traffic violation, you could face additional tickets and fines related to your headphones. Make sure that you fully understand your legal options in traffic court before you decide what to do next.