Earbuds While Driving

A listener wants to know if it’s illegal to use earbuds while driving. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

As a kid, when I didn’t pay attention, my dad would ask: do you have beans in your ears?  Were I a teenager today, he might have asked: do you have buds in your ears?  Because like listener Jessica P. from Delaware County, Pennsylvania, he’d have noticed just how common it is for people not to be paying attention because they’re wearing earbuds.

Jessica wants to know if it’s illegal to wear earbuds while driving. Well, in Pennsylvania, it is illegal to operate a vehicle while wearing headphones or earphones other than hearing aids, although it’s not illegal to use a headset for a cell phone so long as it only provides sound through one ear so you can hear surrounding sounds through the other. But state laws vary—in thirty-two states including Alabama and Kentucky, it’s not illegal to use headsets while driving.  But in every state if you’re not paying attention, you can be ticketed for distracted driving—not to mention getting grounded by your dad.

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