Ask LH: Am I Allowed To Wear Headphones While Riding A Motorbike?

Dear Lifehacker, What is the legal status of wearing in-ear headphones while riding a motorcycle in NSW? Maybe my Google-fu is slipping, but I can’t find a solid answer. I’d like to use headphones to hear the GPS on my phone, especially when travelling to new areas. But, I’m a law abiding rider (I even obey the stupid laws!), and I don’t want any trouble from the police. Please help!Thanks, Rizzo

Dear Rizzo,

The reason it’s difficult to find a clear answer on this is because headphones aren’t mentioned anywhere in NSW’s road rules; or any other state’s as far as we can tell. The good news is that using earphones while riding your bike is not prohibited in Australia. After all, there are no laws against playing your car stereo at distracting volumes, so why should motorcyclists be singled out?

With that said, police and road safety organisations strongly advise against this practice as it can compromise your awareness of surrounding traffic conditions. This could potentially come back to bite you in the event of an accident. Under Australian road rules, any distraction that causes a driver not to have proper control of a vehicle can result in a charge of negligent driving.

Listening to an occasional GPS prompt is unlikely to cause a significant distraction to your driving. However, if the other party attempts to blame the accident on your headphones, it will basically be your word against theirs. For all the police know, you were rocking out to Manowar at the time of the accident.

So in short, you’re not going to get booked by the cops simply for riding around with headphones on. But if something goes wrong, it could lead to complications in court. Wear at your own risk!


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