Is It Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving?

Is It Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving?

Whether you live in Iowa or Illinois, you may spend a significant amount of time on the road. Commuting to work and driving kids to and from extracurricular activities is a lot of time.

If you spend time on the road, especially if in a hands-free phone state like Illinois, you might wonder: Is it illegal to wear headphones while driving?

It’s important to make sure you know the law in the state—or states—where you routinely are on the road.

Different states have their own laws when it comes to using headphones or earbuds while driving.

In some states, it is perfectly legal to be driving with headphones. In other states, however, any use of headphones is illegal. The law falls somewhere in between in other states—it is illegal to drive with headphones, but there are exceptions.

Wearing Headphones While Driving in Iowa is Legal

Iowa law does not prohibit the use of headphones while driving. While other uses of electronic communication devices are unlawful in the state—such as texting while driving—the law does not have any prohibitions when it comes to wearing headphones while driving.

As the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety underscores, Iowa is one of a majority of states that do not prohibit the use of headphones while a driver is behind the wheel.

However, just because a motorist is lawfully using headphones while driving in Iowa does not mean that the driver cannot be responsible for a distracted driving accident.

Even if a driver is doing something within the bounds of the law—like using driving with headphones or eating while driving—those lawful behaviors can still cause distractions that result in a serious collision.  Remember:  Just because it is legal does not mean it is safe.

Illinois Prohibits Headphones While Driving With Exceptions

Under Illinois law, drivers are prohibited from wearing headset receivers, or headphones, while driving on the road in Illinois. However, it is important to note that Illinois is one of eight states that prohibits headphones while driving with exceptions.

Those exceptions include the following:

  • Single-sided headsets or headphones (i.e., headphones only on or in one ear); and
  • Single cell phone earpiece.

If you have additional questions about headphone usage while driving in Illinois, you should speak with a car accident lawyer in Illinois who has experience handling claims involving the use of headsets while driving.

Laws in Other States

If you are from another state other than Iowa or Illinois, you may still be wondering if you can drive with headphones.

Here is a breakdown of the laws in different states.


There is no prohibition on headsets in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Deleware, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennesee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

As you can see, a large majority of states allow you to wear headphones while operating a motor vehicle.


You are not permitted to wear headsets in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.

It’s important to note that in states where it is illegal there are oftentimes exceptions for things such as wearing hearing aid devices, provide protection, and in some cases wearing a device in only one ear instead of both.

There may also be exceptions for emergency personnel such as firefighters, police officers, ambulance drivers, etc.

Can I Wear Headphones While Driving?

The Problem With Wearing Headphones While Driving

Even if you aren’t breaking any driving laws in your state, that does not mean it’s a good idea to block your hearing.

Listening to audio through a headset cuts off your sense of hearing noises in the outside world while you are driving. 

This can cause you not to hear other cars honking as a warning, hear passengers in your own vehicle alerting you to danger, the approaching of a train while crossing tracks, or the sirens of an emergency vehicle. This can lead to dangerous driving and possibly a car accident.

You may also put your own safety at risk by missing warning sounds of mechanical issues within your own vehicle.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Serving Clients in Iowa and Illinois

If you were injured in a car accident in Iowa or Illinois, or if you have questions about how laws concerning the wearing of headphones while you are driving, a personal injury attorney can assist you.

VanDerGinst Law attorneys are licensed in both Illinois and Iowa.

Contact VanderGinst Law to learn more about how we assist clients in Iowa and Illinois with auto accident cases.

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The information contained on this website is presented by VanDerGinst Law P.C. It is not intended nor should it be construed as professional legal advice. The information is general in nature about the Firm, the scope of services we offer, and our community outreach, it is not legal advice. Please contact us by phone, email, mail, or via this website for inquiries. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please contact a personal injury attorney for a consultation regarding your situation. This website is not intended to solicit clients outside the State of Iowa and/or the State of Illinois.

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