Can I Use Headphones While Driving in Irvine?

California has had laws against drivers wearing headphones that completely cover both ears for some time. Lawmakers in the state considered them very risky when worn by drivers because it greatly impairs their hearing and slows their reaction time, potentially causing harm to themselves and others on the road. Oddly though, they did not include the smaller type of listening devices – earbuds – within that law. Up until recently, they were completely legal. But as an experienced car accident lawyer knows, that law changed on January 1, 2016.

Understanding Laws for Drivers with Headphones

Unlike the law on over-the-ear headphones, which still stands, drivers still may drive with one earbud in if one ear is open to hear what is going on around the car. The law also makes no allowances for what someone may listen to through that one earbud. The driver can listen to music, conversations, and even podcasts as long as they only use one earbud.

While drivers may listen to whatever they choose to through that one headphone, it is important to note that all drivers still may not use handheld devices while driving. So, while a driver can select their favorite playlist and listen to it on their phone while driving, they may not touch the phone while driving. Drivers under 18 cannot use a phone at all while driving, regardless of whether it is a handheld device or hands-free.

How Does the One Earbud Law Impact Others on the Road?

The one earbud law that California imposed on drivers goes one step further to include cyclists as well. While cyclists may still wear one earbud while riding, they may also not use over-the-ear headphones or place an earbud in each ear. The idea behind the law is that cyclists need to pay just as much attention to what is happening on the road as drivers do. And with the number of cyclists and drivers in the state, it is not a bad idea.

Because drivers could wear both earbuds for such a long time, even after the state banned headphones covering both ears, the law that went into effect last year is still taking some time for some Californians to become accustomed to. It is an important law however as those caught breaking it can face fines and court costs or worse, cause an accident.