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Is it Legal to Drive with Headphones?

Our great state of California has been a pioneer in distracted driving laws. We were one of the first to issue a ban on texting and driving, and now speaking on a cell phone while driving is considered unlawful. Because of the congested roadways and number of cyclists sharing the road in our area, minimizing distractions on the road is a top public health priority. However, in some cases, defining distracted driving isn’t so clear cut. Is it lawful, for example, to drive while wearing headphones? The short answer: no.

Laws Regarding Headphone Use in California

The regulation of earbuds and other headphone devices is fairly new. On January 1, 2016, 807 laws took effect in our state, and one of them outlaws the use of earplugs or headphones while driving or cycling. While wearing over the ear headphones has been illegal for years, the new tweak to the current law encompasses earbuds and other forms of earplugs. While driving or cycling, you must leave one ear open.

Lawmakers cite busy road conditions as the main reason for the law change. Between pedestrians, cars, and passengers traveling by bicycle, ensuring distraction-free transportation is one of the easiest ways to avoid injury.

The law excludes certain populations, however. For example, the law doesn’t apply to those operating heavy machinery, who may need earplugs for protective purposes. It also excludes the hearing impaired who use special equipment to improve their hearing. Emergency responders who communicate via headset are also exempt from this law. For a full list of exemptions, consult with your local DMV.

What Happens if I Get Caught Wearing Earbuds?

Being caught wearing headphones, earplugs, or other forms of earbuds can lead to fines and court fees. If you’re found in violation of the law, expect to fork over $160 dollars in fines and be prepared to pay for any additional court costs. Remember, you’re only in the wrong if you’re wearing two earbuds while biking or driving: wearing one earbud is still lawful under California ordinances.

Being Injured by a Distracted Driver

Driving while listening to earbuds or communicating via headset are acts of distracted driving. Unfortunately, the cases of distracted driving increase with each passing year. According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control, 424,000 people were injured in accidents related to distracted driving in 2013, an increase of 3,000 from 2012. reports that communicating via headset is not substantially safer than holding a cell phone. For reasons like these, the state of California is taking additional steps to keep our citizens safe.

In spite of these efforts, however, accidents still happen. If you’ve been injured by a distracted driver wearing earbuds, headphones, or earplugs, you may be entitled to collect compensation. You’re eligible to file a personal injury claim, even if a driver faces fines in civil or criminal proceedings.

Collecting money for damages starts with contacting an experienced law firm. A member of a law firm will sit down with you for a free case evaluation. Using information you provide, a lawyer can give you an idea of what to expect from a court proceeding, as well as if you have a case that’s worth pursuing.

In most cases, a personal injury claim will settle out of court, so you can have your compensation without a lengthy court proceeding. If a trial becomes necessary, the associates at Grey Law have the experience and the tenacity to secure the best outcome for their clients. To get started on a personal injury claim today, contact our office. Don’t suffer because of someone else’s negligence. Call us for an initial consultation.

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