Is It Illegal to Drive With Headphones in California?

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Is It Illegal to Drive With Headphones in California?

Is It Illegal to Drive With Headphones in California?

Jul 7, 2023

Remaining alert and paying close attention to your surroundings are two straightforward safety tips recommended for all drivers. But these tips aren’t simply soft suggestions – they’re actually codified into the laws in an effort to maintain safe driving. Accordingly, it is illegal under California law for anyone to drive while distracted.

Is It Illegal to Drive With Headphones?

Types of distracted driving aren’t merely limited to cell phone usage – whether dialing, talking, or texting. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), distracted driving is defined as:

“… anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road, or hands off the steering wheel.”

A common question the car accident and personal injury attorneys at Dordulian Law Group frequently hear is:

“Is it legal to drive with headphones?”

As it turns out, in addition to California’s distracted driving laws mandating that anything which takes a driver’s eyes or mind off the road is considered illegal, there are laws specifically banning the use of headphones while driving.

Is it Illegal to Drive With Headphones in California?

California Vehicle Code 27400 stipulates that no one operating either a motor vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, moped) or bicycle may wear any of the following:

  • A headset covering
  • Earplugs in the ears
  • Earphones covering, resting on, or inserted in both ears

However, there are certain exceptions to California Vehicle Code 27400, including the following:

  • A person operating authorized emergency vehicles
  • A person engaged in the operation of either special construction equipment or equipment for use in the maintenance of any highway
  • A person engaged in the operation of refuse collection equipment who is wearing a safety headset or safety earplugs
  • A person wearing personal hearing protectors in the form of earplugs or molds that are specifically designed to attenuate injurious noise levels (the plugs or molds must be designed in a manner so as to not inhibit the wearer’s ability to hear a siren or horn from an emergency vehicle or a horn from another motor vehicle)
  • A person using a prosthetic device that aids the hard of hearing

Additionally, it’s important to note that as a driver or bicyclist, you are legally able to wear a single headphone/earpiece (e.g. an AirPod) in one ear. By having both ears covered with any type of headphone, headset, or earplug, California law is officially violated.

A violation of California Vehicle Code 27400 will result in one point on one’s driving record under the DMV’s point system as well as a ticket with a fine in the amount of $197. Moreover, license suspensions for distracted driving with headphones can be incurred if a driver accumulates:

  • Four points in a year
  • Six points in two years
  • Eight in three years

Why is Wearing Headphones While Driving Unsafe?

Headphones can cause distractions and lead to dangerous driving conditions. Distracted drivers are much more likely to cause accidents involving serious injuries. When wearing headphones behind the wheel, you may become distracted and therefore unable to:

  • Hear or yield for emergency vehicles
  • Recognize any number of audio cues which can be essential to preventing car accidents

Furthermore, driving with headphones actually diminishes a driver’s sense of spatial awareness. In fact, Ford recently conducted a study to determine how much of a negative impact driving while wearing headphones had on drivers.

The basic structure of the study included:

  • An app played “8D” spatial audio for participants.
  • The app’s output sought to create realism through precisely controlled panning and equalization.
  • The 8D audio was used in conjunction with a virtual-reality street to create sound cues that study participants were then asked to identify (e.g. participants were asked if they could hear an ambulance approaching from behind).
  • The cues were played for people without headphones and for people wearing headphones which were playing music.

The Ford 8D spatial audio study found that:

  • People listening to music via headphones were on average 4.2 seconds slower to identify cues than those without headphones.

And as a CNET report on the Ford study noted, “4.2 seconds is practically an eternity when you’re talking about the difference between crashing into someone on a bicycle and avoiding them.

Is it Legal to Drive With Headphones in Certain States?

Many states are in the process of enacting legislation to restrict or outlaw driving while wearing headphones. There are, however, certain states where it is currently legal to drive with headphones:

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

The Top 20 Distracted Driving Statistics to Help Keep You Safe
California allows victims who have been injured in distracted driving accidents – including those involving drivers wearing headphones – the right to sue for financial compensation to cover various damages.

What to Do if You’ve Been Injured in a California Distracted Driving Accident

Distracted driving is illegal in California, and those who injure drivers and passengers as a result may be held liable through civil actions. If you’ve been injured due to another driver’s negligence, contacting Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) team of experienced car accident lawyers can be the best decision you make.

We will fight to ensure that you get the justice and maximum financial compensation you deserve. Depending on the circumstances of your accident and the severity of your injuries, our dedicated personal injury attorneys will work tirelessly to recover all applicable damages for your claim:

  • Hospital bills
  • Medical expenses (past and future)
  • Psychological harm
  • Lost wages/reduced earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages
  • Property damage

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

Having a qualified and proven attorney fighting the at-fault driver’s insurance company means your rights will be protected. And with DLG, there’s never any upfront cost to you – you pay nothing for our expert legal services until after we’ve secured maximum financial compensation for your claim.

Contact DLG today by calling 866-GO-SEE-SAM to arrange for a free and confidential Los Angeles distracted driving accident attorney consultation.

Go See Sam