blog banner

headphone while drivingIn California, it is illegal to wear Bluetooth headphones in both ears while driving. The California Vehicle Code states that an individual operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not have both ears covered by a headset, earplugs, or earphones unless an explicit exception to this rule applies.

Thus, wearing headphones while driving and riding a bike is illegal. Even though Bluetooth headphones do not have a cord, wearing them in both ears is unlawful since they decrease the wearer’s ability to perceive emergency sirens and horns. Whether Bluetooth headphones are big over the ear or are earbuds inserted into the ears, drivers cannot wear them in both ears while operating a vehicle. 

What Are The Exceptions To California’s Prohibition On Headphones? 

California law does provide exceptions for wearing headphones, earbuds, or earplugs when they are only in one ear. This means that those with Bluetooth earbuds can lawfully wear a single earbud in one ear. This way, the driver can still hear what is happening on the road with one ear not covered. 

Can People Operating Authorized Emergency Vehicles Wear Bluetooth Headphones? 

Yes, the prohibition on wearing Bluetooth headphones does not apply to emergency responders and a few other select professionals. Persons operating authorized emergency vehicles are exempt from the rule, as they might need to wear headphones as part of their jobs. 

Can Construction Workers Wear Headphones Or Ear Protection While Operating Construction Equipment?

Yes, a person operating special construction equipment or highway maintenance equipment can lawfully wear headphones on both ears in California. Although construction workers are not exempt from the rule when driving personal vehicles, they can wear headphones on the job. For example, they might need to wear ear protection to shield themselves from exposure to dangerously loud noises. They also might need to wear headsets to communicate with other workers. 

Can Garbage Collectors Wear Bluetooth Headphones On The Job?

Although the law provides that a person engaged in the operation of refuse collection equipment may wear a safety headset or safety earplugs, Bluetooth headphones are not permitted. 

Can People Wear Earplugs Or Ear Protection While Driving? 

Although the state generally prohibits covering both ears while driving, there is an exemption for hearing protection that is personal and specifically designed to protect the wearer’s hearing. Since Bluetooth headphones are not designed to protect hearing but rather to produce noise, they do not generally fall under this exception. Permissible hearing protection may not interfere with the wearer’s ability to listen to a siren or horn from an emergency vehicle or a horn from another motor vehicle.

Can A Person Wear A Hearing Aid While Driving?

While state law generally prohibits drivers from covering both of their ears while operating a motor vehicle, those with prosthetic devices that aid hearing can wear their devices while driving in California. People who use hearing aids cannot wear Bluetooth headphones, however, but only Bluetooth-enabled aids.  

Why Is Using Bluetooth Headphones Illegal When Driving? 

Bluetooth headphones can divert a driver’s attention from the road, like texting while driving. Visually, texting takes a driver’s attention away from the road. When the driver looks down at a text, they miss what is happening on the road and might not see important cues like stop signs, pedestrians in the street, or another vehicle merging or making a turn. 

Some might assume it is okay to wear Bluetooth headphones while driving because they do not interfere with the driver’s ability to see the road. However, headphones can be just as distracting as texting. Hearing is essential to driving. All drivers need to be able to hear what is happening on the road as well as spot visual cues. For instance, other drivers can honk their horns to alert the driver to potential hazards, which the driver could miss if they are listening to Bluetooth headphones. 

Speak with an expert Orange County Car Accident Attorney

If you have been the victim of an accident and noticed the other driver was wearing earbuds or headphones, it is important to make a note of this. They may have been distracted, and therefore liable for any losses and damages you have experienced, including medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. 

It is essential to act quickly, so speak with a knowledgeable Orange County car accident lawyer from the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates. Our personal injury attorneys have the expertise to effectively handle a wide range of car accident cases, even those involving a distracted driver.

For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with an expert Orange County personal injury lawyer, please call 949-727-9300.


This post is also available in %s.

Samer Habbas is a California attorney with over 18 years of experience in personal injury law. Throughout his career, he has successfully recovered over $300 million for his clients, solidifying his reputation as a leading advocate in the field.

Samer swiftly gained recognition for his adept negotiation skills and unwavering dedication to his clients. His practice spans a wide range of personal injury cases, including car accidents, dog bites, funeral home abuse, premises liability, and wrongful death.

Samer is known for his compassionate approach and commitment to securing favorable outcomes for his clients. His expertise has earned him the trust and respect of both his clients and his peers within the legal community. He is also deeply invested in giving back to his community. He actively participates in pro bono work and volunteers his time to various charitable organizations. Samer is a champion for those who have been wronged, leveraging his extensive experience and expertise to make a meaningful difference in the lives of his clients and his community.