Those ear buds you’re wearing while driving? Probably illegal

It’s a common sight on the road: the focused driver with white ear buds and trailing wires. But common or not, it may not be strictly, well, street legal.

Map via Lifehacker

Lifehacker has teamed up with the American Automobile Association (AAA) to create a new interactive U.S. map breaking down the relevant laws on headphone use by drivers. And the conclusion?

In four states, it’s “mostly illegal.” Another 33, “mostly legal.” And in the remaining 13, “it’s complicated.”

This last group includes Washington State, for which Lifehacker notes, “It’s illegal to wear headphones and earbuds while driving in Washington — unless those headphones are built into a helmet, or it’s a Bluetooth headset.”

For its part AAA points out even if it is legal, it may not be smart, if those tunes drown out the drone of the unseen semi bearing down on you.

Frank Catalano is a regular GeekWire columnist helping with vacation fill-in duty this week. You can follow Frank on Twitter @FrankCatalano.

  • Guest

    If we outlaw earbuds, only outlaws will have earbuds.

  • Forrest

    Sad to think people don’t know this. I’ve thought a great source of revenue for the state would be to better enforce this. Nothing like the guy who wont get out of the way of an ambulance because he wont check his mirrors nor can hear it due to wearing headphones.

  • http://twitter.com/mikemcl mikemcl

    They should probably ban the deaf from driving as they will not be able to hear “the drone of the unseen semi bearing down” on them.

    • mfp2waoe3

      They should.

    • biggie0smalls

      Thanks for your input, guy who wears earbuds. You should try walking across a highway with a blindfold on, too.

  • Nametyb

    Just a matter of personal responsibility…

  • Guest

    You don’t have to use both buds, one works just fine for phone calls (sort of like a bluetooth headset with a wire).

  • Goerge

    Wired cell phone headsets? Illegal? Even if hands free is the requirement, as in CA? There’s a conundrum for you.

    • http://www.intrinsicstrategy.com/ FrankCatalano

      The issue tends to be whether one ear or both is covered, as I recall the laws. Most wired headsets sold primarily for use with mobile phones are for one ear.

    • Jim Main

      Actually it’s stereo headsets that are illegal, one of the advantages of earbuds (versus attached stereo headphones) is you can wear just one earpiece. And earbuds don’t block outside sounds any more than a car stereo.

      • goldeneye

        lol want to hear my pair of sony ear buds , lmao they dont mess around especally attached to my cd player lmao

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=94500172 Kyle Kesterson

    I’m old fashioned and still prefer the handset to my ear… that is of course when I’m not texting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roberto-Munoz/1703157583 Roberto Munoz

    when is the government going to stop telling us what we can and can’t do why don’t they work about telling the gas station owners that they can’t raise the price of gas or the health insurance that they can’t raise our premium you don’t see car accidents on the news from people wearing headphones or earbuds just people drunk tired or stupid get your hands out of the big business pockets and get something done for a change

    • mfp2waoe3

      If there weren’t so many clueless morons like you who should have their licenses revoked, the government wouldn’t have to worry about stuff like this.

  • Su

    I just don’t get it. Even as loud as I could actually comfortably listen to my earbuds, they don’t begin to drown out the noise around me, any more than having my radio on does. I could see making noise canceling headphones illegal for driving but not earbuds. You might as well make playing your car stereo illegal.

  • jeffy

    Incredibly misleading title. Its “mostly illegal” in only 4/50 states and DC, yet the title claims if you are wearing them it’s “probably illegal.”

    • jeffy

      Even 17/51 is only about a third of places, so it’s actually “probably” legal