Can You Wear Headphones While Driving?

Wearing headphones while driving is an increasingly common practice nationwide. Whether it’s listening to music or taking a call, this is a dangerous practice that can distract you from the road and limit your ability to hear what’s going on around you.

At Thomas J Henry Law, our attorneys recommend not wearing headphones while driving. However, not recommended and illegal are two completely different things.

So, is it illegal to wear headphones while driving or can you wear headphones while driving?

Driving while wearing headphones or earphones largely depends on the state in which you reside.

Is It Legal or Illegal to Drive with Headphones?

Whether it’s illegal to wear headphones while driving is a mixed picture, some states make wearing earbuds while driving legal, whereas others make it illegal in all circumstances.

Then, there are the exemptions you have to take into account. Is it illegal to wear headphones while driving in Texas, for example? No, but you could still receive a fine for dangerous driving.

Let’s take a look at where it’s legal/illegal to wear headphones while driving, as well as the states with exceptions.

States Where Driving with Headphones is Legal

In these states, you can wear headphones while behind the wheel without breaking the law:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Make sure you look up your specific state laws. For example, is it illegal to drive with headphones in Texas? No, but there are plenty of incidences where patrolmen have pulled over drivers with headphones and given them a ticket for dangerous driving.

Other states may also have similar laws.

States Where Driving with Headphones is Illegal

There are laws explicitly prohibiting the wearing of headphones while operating a motor vehicle in the following states.

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Washington


Some states legalize/illegalize the practice of wearing headphones in certain situations. When asking, “Can I wear headphones while driving?” you need to be aware of any discrepancies arising from specific states.  A few examples include:

  • Arizona – Using headphones while driving is legal, but childcare providers and school bus drivers must not operate a motor vehicle with headphones.
  • Colorado – Is it illegal to drive with headphones in Colorado? Yes, but taking a cell phone call in one ear is permitted.
  • Florida – In Florida, driving with headphones is illegal, but headphones are permitted if taking a call in one ear.
  • Georgia – In Georgia headphones are illegal unless you’re making a call in one ear.
  • Massachusetts – In Massachusetts headphones are only legal when used for navigational purposes, such as when using a talking GPS.
  • New York – Headphones may only be used in one ear in New York.
  • Pennsylvania – In Pennsylvania, headphones are illegal in all circumstances, apart from when taking a cell phone call in one ear.

Is it Dangerous to Drive with Headphones?

At Thomas J Henry Law, we believe operating a motor vehicle with headphones is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Nobody drives safely using only their eyes. The ability to hear is essential, particularly when it comes to awareness of speeding emergency vehicles.

Is it illegal to wear headphones while driving? In Texas, it’s not, but you’re taking a risk every time you engage in this behavior.

Although there are valid excuses, such as using headphones for navigational purposes or taking a call, it’s still a dangerous practice.

You must be able to use your eyes and ears at all times if you are going to keep yourself and other road users safe.

Penalties for Driving with Headphones

Driving while wearing headphones falls under distracted driving laws in many states, and Texas is no exception. Can you drive with headphones? Yes, but you are driving in an unsafe manner if you do.

If You’re Pulled Over

Most distracted driving laws are aimed at the use of cell phones, but they can extend to any device.

A highway patrolman could pull you over and give you a ticket of $100 or a citation. In the event you broke a traffic law while wearing headphones, they could upgrade the charge to dangerous driving, which comes with a $200 fine and/or jail time of 30 days.

If You’re in an Accident

If involved in an accident, the other motorist could accuse you of distracted or dangerous driving if you were wearing headphones. This could reduce any compensation you’re entitled to due to Texas’s comparative negligence laws and may even lead to criminal charges.

Can you wear headphones while driving? Yes, but it’s unsafe and makes you legally vulnerable.


In conclusion, can you wear headphones while driving? There’s no law against it, but you could still receive a ticket for distracted or dangerous driving.

Either way, headphones are unsafe because they block out one of your senses and form a distraction. It’s best to keep your full attention on the road to avoid an accident.

Contact the Texas car accident attorneys at Thomas J Henry Law today if you were involved in an accident while wearing headphones. Our firm has offices in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas serving clients across Texas and nationwide.

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