Is it Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving in Florida?
Gregg Hollander | June 30, 2021 | Florida Law
Yes, with very few exceptions, it is illegal to wear headphones while driving in Florida. If you wear headphones while driving, you could face criminal penalties for violating the law. Additionally, you could cause a distracted driving accident.
Florida may be a no-fault insurance state, but you could still be personally liable for a traffic accident in Fort Lauderdale that results in serious injuries. If a victim sustains serious injuries, you could be on the hook for the full cost of their medical bills and lost wages. The victim may also be entitled to recover compensation for pain and suffering damages, including permanent disabilities.
What is the Law in Florida for Wearing Headphones While Driving?
Florida Statute §316.304 makes it illegal for a driver to operate a motor vehicle while wearing a headset, headphone, or another listening device—with the exception of a hearing aid.
The following headphone uses are permitted while driving:
- Wearing a headset with a cell phone that has sound in just one ear
- Wearing a headset with a central base operation if the sound is only in one ear
- Motorcycle helmets with speakers that do not come in direct contact with the rider’s ears
- Applicants for a motorcycle license can wear a listening device as required by law while taking the test
- Ear protection devices for emergency vehicle operators
- Police officers may wear any communication device necessary to perform their duties
The exceptions to the law have specific purposes. First responders need to protect their hearing from loud sirens. Likewise, police officers may be required to wear listening devices or communication devices during specific situations.
Drivers need to be able to hear sounds outside of the vehicle so they can adjust their driving to avoid collisions and other dangerous situations. The exceptions for drivers allow motorists to use a hands-free cell phone with a headset. However, by restricting the use of the headset to one ear, the driver can still hear emergency sirens and other sounds.
Covering both ears with headphones increases the risk of a distracted driving accident. A driver may become so engrossed by the headphones that their attention to the road decreases substantially. The result could be a deadly distracted driving accident.
Can Bicyclists Wear Headphones in Florida?
No, bicycles are considered vehicles under Florida law. Therefore, riders must follow the same traffic laws prohibiting headphones as motorists follow.
However, there are also a few exceptions for bicyclists:
- Riders can wear hearing aids while riding their bicycles
- Riders may also wear an earbud in one hear to use with a cell phone
- Riders can wear headphones while riding on a path that is not part of a roadway
You might see a bicyclist riding on a sidewalk wearing headphones. If so, that is because the bicyclist is treated as a pedestrian when riding on a sidewalk. There are no restrictions for pedestrians wearing headphones.
However, a bicyclist should consider the risk of wearing headphones while riding on a sidewalk. The rider might not hear shouts of warning from other individuals. Being unable to hear increases the risk of a bicycle accident.
Headphones and Allegations of Comparative Fault
Another reason bicyclists and motorists need to avoid headphones is Florida’s comparative fault law. If you are partially responsible for the cause of your injury, your compensation may be lower than the full value of your damages. In other words, you could lose money if you contribute in any way to the cause of an accident.
A defendant might allege that you contributed to the cause of your injuries by wearing headphones. If a jury agrees, it could reduce your compensation to account for your percentage of fault.
If your car accident claim settles out of court, contributory fault allegations are not as important. However, the allegations could have a negative impact on settlement negotiations.
Whenever you are involved in a car accident, seeking legal advice can be helpful. Florida’s insurance laws and personal injury statutes can be confusing.