Is it Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving

Is Driving with Headphones Legal?

Traffic collisions happen everyday in our region. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reports that there were 341,399 accidents in 2020 alone. The majority of car crashes are avoidable. Safe driving can prevent accidents, and we all know that distracted driving is on the rise. So, is it illegal to wear headphones while driving? In Florida and many other states, it is unlawful to wear headphones while behind the wheel. At Bernheim Kelley Battista & Bliss, LLC, we are committed to providing results-driven legal guidance and support to injured victims and their families. Our firm strongly advocates for public safety. It is illegal—with limited exceptions—to wear headphones while driving in nearly two dozen U.S. states, including in Florida and Massachusetts. In this article, our Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyer explains the most important things to know about wearing headphones and driving.


Every state has different laws in regards to safe driving behavior. While most states do not allow drivers to wear headphones or earbuds while driving, some do. Some others allow drivers to wear only one earbud. Be sure to check the local laws in your state before you get behind the wheel. Wearing headphones while driving is expressly prohibited (with exceptions) in a number of different states, including in Florida, Massachusetts, California, and New York. However, it is not expressly prohibited in every state. According to a recent survey of state laws conducted by the Austin American-Statesman, approximately 17 states have clear laws on the books that make it illegal to have headphones while driving unless the motorists fits into a listed exception. In other states, it is either lawful to wear headphones while driving or there is no specific law on the matter. However, it is important to emphasize that virtually every state in the country has distracted driving laws, reckless driving laws, and has some form of negligence system in place. A driver who is wearing headphones while driving may not be violating a specific statute in their state, but they could still be cited for a traffic violation or held legally liable for an accident if their headphones—and other behavior—is deemed to be unreasonably distracted or unreasonably reckless.

Florida Law: Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving in Fort Lauderdale

You cannot wear headphones while operating a motor vehicle in Florida. Under state law (Florida Statutes § 316.304), “no person shall operate a vehicle while wearing a headset, headphone, or other listening device.” It is important to clarify that a violation of Florida’s no headphones while driving law is not a criminal offense. As stated in the code, “a violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation.” Beyond being cited for a nonmoving violation, a driver who violates Florida’s headphones law could also bear civil liability if an accident occurs. Wearing headphones while driving could be deemed negligence that contributes to an accident. Is it Illegal to Wear Headphones When Driving

In Which Situation Is Wearing Headphones Allowed While Driving in Fort Lauderdale?

While headphones are not permitted while driving in Florida, there are some exceptions to the law. It is legal to wear headphones or a similar type of device in Florida while driving in the following circumstances:

  • The headphones are a medically-necessary hearing aid or related device that is used to improve a person’s hearing;
  • The driver is wearing a headset with a cell phone or base operation that only has one ear bud—meaning one ear remains free to listen to the surrounding environment;
  • A motorcyclist is wearing a motorcycle helmet with speakers and the speakers do not come in direct contact with their ears; and
  • The motorist is a law enforcement officer or an emergency personnel employee who is wearing ear protection and/or a communication device that is necessary for their duties.

What Makes Wearing Headphones While Driving Dangerous?

Highway safety matters. Car crashes are consistently among the leading cause of serious injuries and accidental deaths in Florida and throughout the United States. More than 42,000 people were killed in motor vehicle collisions nationwide in 2021. Many hundreds of thousands more people suffered serious—even life-changing—injuries in collisions. You can go a long way towards reducing your risk by practicing safe and defensive driving behaviors. Experts generally agree that it is not safe to wear headphones while driving. Here are some of the key findings in a recent highway safety study on headphones and driving that was cited by media and news organization CNET:

  • Hearing is Dramatically Reduced: The key issue with headphones is that your eyes are filled without whatever you are listening to, and it is far more difficult to hear sounds from the surrounding environment. Listening to loud music with noise-canceling headphones would be the most extreme example. However, even listening to a relatively low volume talk show in headphones still dramatically reduces your hearing of the surrounding environment. You might miss out on hearing a safety hazard, such as a blazing horn or an oncoming vehicle.
  • Headphones Actually Slow Reaction Time: Being able to hear less well with headphones on is actually not the only reason why they have the potential to be dangerous for drivers. As found by researchers in the study cited by CNET, people wearing headphones are actually slower to respond to all ranges of cues, including visual and spatial cues. A study funded by the Ford Motor Company found that people were 4.2 seconds slower to respond on average when they are wearing headphones than when they are not wearing headphones. Even in a relatively slow moving car, 4.2 seconds is an entirety. It could be the difference between coming to a safe stop and being involved in a serious crash.

Can an Accident Be Your Fault Just Because of the Headphones?

Florida has complex car accident laws that are not always well understood by drivers. Unlike the majority of jurisdictions in the United States, Florida is not a pure fault-based car accident liability state. Instead, Florida has a no-fault standard of liability for minor and moderate injuries. Here are some of the most important things to know about the state’s liability laws for automotive crashes:

  • No-Fault Liability for Minor and Moderate Injuries: Every driver in Florida has a duty to buy at least $10,000 worth of no-fault Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. It is your own PIP insurance that covers initial injury damages—including medical bills and wage loss—after a crash. Fault is simply not an issue in a PIP claim in Florida. It is no-fault insurance coverage that applies no matter who is responsible for a crash.
  • Property Damage Not Covered By Mandatory PIP: While PIP coverage is mandatory, drivers are not required to get comprehensive, no-fault coverage for property damage. You can also file a property damage claim based on fault after a car accident in Florida. The simple truth is that property damage does not fall under the Florida no-fault laws.
  • Fault-Based Liability for Serious Crashes: Florida allows personal injury lawsuits in car accidents if a person suffered a “serious injury.” There is a specific legal definition of a serious injury. In general, a claimant must establish that he or she has a significant injury that is likely to cause some form of permanent scarring, disfigurement, impairment, or limitations. Serious injury claims are fault-based legal claims in Florida.

To learn more, schedule a free consultation with us today.

Florida’s Comparative Fault Laws and Headphone Use While Driving

For at-fault car accident claims in Florida, the state uses the comparative negligence system of liability. Under Florida law (Florida § 768.81), each party to an accident will be held legally responsible for their proportional share of the blame. Every serious crash requires a comprehensive investigation to determine exactly how and why an accident happened. The specific amount of blame assigned to each driver will have a major impact on the liability. Here is an example of how comparative negligence works in Florida: Imagine that you were hurt in a crash with another driver in Broward County. You suffered a serious injury and are preparing to bring a fault-based claim. In total, you sustained $50,000 in damages. If the other driver is at fault for 100% of your accident, you can hold them legally responsible for the full $50,000 of losses. However, if you are determined to be at-fault for part of your own crash, then the calculation changes dramatically. For example, imagine that you are found to be 20% at fault for that Broward County collision. As a consequence, you would bear liability for 20% of your own damages, or $10,000. Instead of being eligible to hold the other driver liable for the entire accident, you would only be able to hold them liable for 80% of it, or $40,000 in total.

What Wearing Headphones While Driving Means for Comparative Negligence in Florida

As explained previously, it is illegal to wear headphones while driving in Florida unless one of the state’s exceptions applies. If a driver gets into a crash while wearing headphones, that fact could have a major impact on the case—particularly as it pertains to any fault-based car accident injury claim. A thorough investigation will be required to determine the extent to which the headphones were a factor in causing the accident. Violating a traffic safety regulation is negligence in Florida. In other words, a driver who wears headphones and gets into a crash may be fully or partially blamed for the accident based on that fact alone. Of course, every traffic collision is different. An investigation will be needed to determine exactly what happened. Many auto accidents are caused by multiple, overlapping factors

Can I Sue a Driver for Wearing Headphones and Causing Damages Due to an Accident?

In Florida, injured victims have a right to pursue compensation for monetary and intangible damages. Insurance companies are required to use good faith settlement practices to resolve legitimate claims. Nonetheless, the major insurers still try to settle claims for the minimum amount possible. They have many tactics and—from minimizing damages to arguing comparative negligence—to try to limit their financial liability. Our Florida car accident lawyers are committed to helping injured victims maximize their financial recovery. You may be entitled to recover money for:

  • Property damage (vehicle repairs);
  • Ambulance and emergency room care;
  • Hospital bills and other medical costs;
  • Ongoing and long-term rehabilitative care;
  • Loss of current and future wages and earnings;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Scarring, disfigurement, and disability; and
  • Wrongful death of a family member.
Car accident claims are complicated. There can be disputes over a number of different issues, including whether a driver was wearing headphones, whether they had the right to do so, and what affect (if any) the headphones had on the crash. Among other things, a Florida auto accident lawyers can help with the following:
  • Listen to your story and answer any questions that you have about your case;
  • Investigate your collision, gathering the relevant evidence and information;
  • Handle legal paperwork and settlement discussions with insurance companies; and
  • Go above and beyond to put you in the best position to maximize your financial support.

Why Should a Person Hire BK Law for a Car Accident Case?

At Bernheim Kelley Battista & Bliss, LLC, our Florida car accident lawyers are devoted to helping our clients secure real justice and real results. With a history of testimonials from former clients and a proven record of successful case results, you can rely on our Fort Lauderdale auto accident attorneys for results-focused legal advice. If you or your loved one was involved in a crash where someone was wearing headphones while driving, we can help. To set up a free, no commitment initial consultation with a car accident attorney, please do not hesitate to contact us today. From our offices in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, and Starke, we represent victims throughout Florida.