Is It Legal To Drive With Headphones On?

Is it legal to drive while wearing headphones?Image: iStock

The only thing that makes long-distance driving tolerable is music and/or podcasts. Unfortunately, using the car stereo isn't always an option. Perhaps the speakers are busted, or maybe your passengers hate your taste in music. In these situations, the obvious solution is to don a pair headphones. But is this actually legal?

The short answer is yes. Wearing headphones while driving is technically legal as there are no laws specifically prohibiting their use while driving.

However, in the event of an accident, police will carefully consider the factors that contributed to the crash. This will include potential driving distractions, such as headphone use.

In NSW this would fall under Road Rule 297(1), which states:

A driver must not drive a vehicle unless the driver has proper control of the vehicle.

"Proper control" is a highly subjective phrase. If a highway patrolman decides your noisy headphones are compromising your ability to drive, they can fine you under the aforementioned road rule.

In fact, you don't even need to be involved in an accident for this to happen. (For example, you can expect to receive an infringement if your headphones drown out a police car's siren and you fail to respond as a result.)

In conclusion, wearing headphones isn't going to get your fined or arrested by itself. But if the police pull you over for any reason, it is strongly advised that you remove them before they approach your car. Better safe than sorry.

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


    Thank you. Always wanted to know about this. Was going to send it in as an "Ask Lifehacker" but you guys beat me to the punch :)

    It may very well be legal, but I just don't think it's a very clever idea. Having sound blasting directly into your ears blocks out a lot of other useful sounds that you really should be listening to while in control of hurtling a 2 tonne piece of metal down the road at fast speeds.

    I think there are two things to consider:
    1 - It stops you from hearing of any engine or mechanical noises that your car may be making, which could quickly turn disastrous.
    2 - It stops you from hearing the sirens of emergency and police vehicles, and the alert horns of other drivers.

    I'm all for jacking up the music in my car and singing along at high volume, but make sure you can still let those other sounds through enough to be able to react to things. You job on the road is not only to get yourself from point A to B, it's also to do it in a safe way for yourself and for others.

      MAY very well, no it is not!
      Major FAIL, if you have a driving licence, an immediate refresher course in driving is paramount.

    NO, dummy, you have to HEAR emergency service vehicles, move to one side and give clear passage in every situation, including traffic lights controlled intersections.

      Firstly, please refrain from name-calling when dealing with strangers. It's not a very nice thing to do and it only makes the writer seem petulant.
      Secondly, before you keyboard-rage, it's often best to properly read the comment and also the article it pertains to.

      This article, and many other sources, state that wearing headphones is not illegal because there is no law specifically deeming otherwise. HOWEVER, my comment was very clear that even though the practice is legal, I do not agree that people should be doing it because in my opinion (as is also the reflected opinion of the law), wearing headphones can be proven to be a distraction and constitute grounds for prosecution if an accident occurs.
      So it would seem to me that you and I actually agree on this matter, do we not?

      Last edited 19/05/17 9:58 am

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