Here Are the States in the US Where It Is Illegal to Drive With Headphones

Wearing headphones while driving contributes to distracted, unsafe driving, but it's still legal in certain states across the United States.

Jamie Bichelman - Author
By

May 20 2024, Published 5:24 p.m. ET

A woman wearing black headphones is photographed from behind while driving a car.
Source: iStock

Operating a motor vehicle while distracted, driving while fatigued, and getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol are all extraordinarily dangerous, can lead to heartbreaking tragedy, and are entirely preventable. In some states, driving while wearing headphones is considered illegal and an unnecessary distraction from the driver's environment.

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If you're planning a summer road trip or just enjoy the sweet sounds of music to keep you company while you drive, keep reading to find out which states deem driving with headphones illegal, which states have exceptions, and which states allow you to operate a vehicle while wearing headphones.

A man wearing white earphones is photographed from behind while driving a car.
Source: iStock
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It's illegal to drive with headphones in these states:

According to the Chicago-based law firm VanDerGinst Law, here are the states where driving while wearing headphones is illegal:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Washington

According to car and home insurance resource hub The Zebra, there are some notable exemptions in the states where driving with headphones is illegal. In eight of the 15 states where operating a vehicle while wearing headphones is illegal, there is some leeway.

The use of one earbud is permitted in:

  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
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In some instances, a driver wearing headphones for the purpose of following GPS navigation is permitted, per The Zebra. In some states, the law will explicitly state that a driver utilizing anything beyond one earbud is illegal.

For example, section 375 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law states that it is illegal if "the operator is wearing more than one earphone attached to a radio, tape player or other audio device," according to Thomson Reuters's FindLaw resource.

Regardless of the legality of the state you're in, wearing headphones while driving is unnecessarily risky. Driving with headphones on blocks out the noise from your surroundings, leaving you susceptible to missing important alerts like the siren from emergency vehicles, nearby trains, or vehicles honking their horns as a warning.

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A man wears white headphones while using both hands to text while in the driver-side seat of a car.
Source: iStock

It's legal to drive with headphones in these states:

Per VanDerGinst Law and The Zebra, here are the remaining states where it is legal to drive with headphones on:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Deleware
  • Washington D.C.
  • 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
  • Tennesee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
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Just because the majority of states in the U.S. permit drivers to wear some form of a headset while driving, and most of the remaining states where it is illegal have an exception that grants drivers the option to wear one earphone, that doesn't mean that all forms of distracted driving is allowed.

Per the Governors Highway Safety Association, 34 states and Washington, D.C. prohibit drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. In all but 32 states (with Alabama and Missouri the exceptions) a police officer can cite the offending driver without any other offenses having simultaneously taken place.

Additionally, texting while driving is prohibited in 49 states and Washington D.C., with Montana being the only state in the U.S. where no text message ban exists.

Missouri, often cited as the only other state without a ban on texting and driving, prohibits it for drivers 21 and under, and banned texting and driving for all drivers as a secondary law in 2023.

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