Is it illegal to drive with headphones? Laws for the US, Canada, UK, EU, EEA, and Australia

Image credit: Unsplash

To wear or not to wear headphones while driving can be a matter of abiding by the road rules or getting penalty points or tickets. This is especially true if you are new to a place. While you may know the road rules in your state, you may not be aware of the entire road/driving rules if you’ve recently moved to a new state. 

Or it may be so that you’re traveling to a new country, or touring the interstate, it’s important to know whether it’s legal or illegal to wear headphones to make sure you don’t cause any driving/road safety violations.

Use this post as your go-to resource for checking the laws on wearing headphones while driving in the US, Canada, the UK, EU and EEA countries, and Australia. 

Can you wear headphones while driving in the US?

Yes and no. Some US states do not have any prohibition against headphone use when driving while many states mark it as a driving/road safety violation. And then there are a handful of states that allow headphone use while driving but with exceptions. 

Image credit: Pexels

Rules for traffic, driving, and road safety can be confusing as there are so many of them to remember. Even if you proactively make the effort to learn about different traffic rules, you may be able to find a specific rule you are searching for. Here’s an example:

In this interview, a police officer from the Edmonds Police Department, Washington State, details how one may find it difficult to search for headphone traffic laws as the state’s law section for headphone usage while driving is titled “Television Viewers and Earphones.” Watch the video here

Here, we’ve compiled laws of each US state for using headphones while driving: 

Source: Thenewswheel

Are you allowed to wear headphones while driving in Canada? 

Ban of headphone usage during driving isn’t clearly specified in the traffic laws of Canadian states and provinces. However, using headphones while driving can be one of the reasons for distracted driving which is considered a traffic/road safety violation. 

Here, we have compiled distracted driving laws for each Canadian province and territory:

Source: Loanscanada

To get more specific on the prohibition of usage of headphones while driving in Canada, we’ve curated the details for each province and territory: 

Source: Drivinglaws

Can you wear headphones while driving in the UK?

The road safety and vehicle rules section in the UK does not specify the use of headsets as a traffic violation. In fact, the UK government website classifies the use of a Bluetooth headset as a hands-free alternative to holding a phone or a satellite navigation device when driving a car or riding a motorcycle.

Source: Gov.UK  

However, police officers can list headphone usage while driving as the main or one of the several reasons for careless/distracted driving. For more information on this, watch this video in which a police officer from the Avon and Somerset Police department highlights the details; click here.

Here are more details Express UK has listed: 

Source: Express UK

If the police officers find that you are using the headphone along with your mobile phone, they can fine you under the phone driving laws. Here are the charges that the UK government has listed for using a hand-held phone while driving: 

Source: Gov.UK

Are you allowed to wear headphones while driving in EU and EEA countries? 

The laws on using headphones while driving vary from one European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) country to another. While France and Spain completely ban the use of headphones (or any other hands-free alternatives) while driving, many countries within the EU and EEA allow the use of headphones as a ‘hands-free’ way of using a mobile phone and not getting distracted while driving. Here’s a complete list: 

Source: APH

Can you wear headphones while driving in Australia? 

Many states in Australia allow driving license holders the use of headphones while driving as a ‘hands-free’ way of using a mobile phone for communication or navigation. However, learner drivers do not get this facility. 

Learn more about the laws of each state and territory below: 

Source: Sproutinc

Here’s an instructional video from Victoria Police on how enabling the ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode on the phone helps avoid distraction while driving. Watch the video here.

Tips to avoid using headphones while driving

It can be tempting to check your phone every now and then or listen to music using headphones if your car’s music player is broken or nothing good is playing on the radio. However, getting immersed with your phone and headphones can not only raise the risk of getting pulled over by traffic policemen but also put you, other drivers, and pedestrians in danger of road accidents.

There are several ways how you can avoid using headphones while driving and mitigate these risks. Check out some of the most practical and effective ones below: 

1. Customize your do not disturb settings

The Do Not Disturb function on your phone can be a highly useful tool if you customize it the right way. Make sure that you set the feature’s driving mode to auto-activate. 

Write a small auto-reply message informing that you’re driving and that you’ll reply after reaching the destination. 

Choose to set an auto-reply to everybody in your contact list to make sure that your phone blocks all calls. 

2. Prepare a playlist in your car’s stereo beforehand

It’s often due to bad playlists on your car’s stereo that you reach out for your phone and your pair of headphones to enjoy your favorite records. As part of fully preparing yourself prior to heading off, it pays to prepare your music playlist in your car stereo beforehand.

Take into account the amount of time it will take to reach your destination and include the number of songs accordingly. Also, make sure that you do not play the music on your car stereo overly loud to the extent that it impairs you from paying attention to important road signals. 

3. Have somebody’s company while driving

Having somebody’s company while driving definitely help in making the ride interesting and abstain from using your phone and your headphones. It gets a lot easier to find somebody to accompany you if you prepare beforehand. For example, if you are returning home from work, inform your colleagues and maybe one or more may be interested in you dropping them off. 

Similarly, inform your family members prior to leaving for work to share the ride. You can even start carpooling on your way to and from work in order to get company as well as some extra money. 

4. Keep your headphones in hard-to-reach areas

If you are someone who prefers to carry headphones, it’s best to keep your pair out of reach when you’re driving. Some of the hard-to-reach areas include the passenger seat of your car, locked glove box, or the innermost pocket of your bag. 

The last takeaway

Even if you find your way through alternatives to using your mobile phone and headphones when driving, traffic policemen may catch you at some point. Also, it’s important to consider the safety risks associated with using headphones while driving. 

To get yourself comfortable with not using mobile phones and headphones while driving, practice avoiding them whenever you drive. The habit will kick in at some point and help you abstain from using them and being fully focused on the road.

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