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Can I Legally Wear Headphones While Operating a Vehicle in Pennsylvania?

Posted on August 3, 2022

Driving with headphones is illegal in many states, including Pennsylvania. Under section 3314 of Title 75 of the state’s Vehicle Code, “No driver shall operate a vehicle while wearing or using one or more headphones or earphones.” However, drivers can use cell phone headsets or Bluetooth devices that cover only one ear, as long as they allow surrounding sounds to be heard.

What Are the Dangers of Wearing Headphones & Driving?

Any obstruction to a driver’s sense of hearing can detract from their ability to drive safely. Drivers need to be able to hear sounds outside of their vehicles to adjust their driving and avoid collisions or other dangerous situations. Headphones and earbuds that play music reduce a driver’s situational awareness. Therefore, surrounding noises can be blocked out, and as a result, drivers may be unable to hear:

  • Horns from other drivers
  • Sirens from emergency vehicles
  • Crosswalk alarms
  • Railroad crossing bells

A potentially serious or even fatal accident can occur when any type of activity takes a driver’s focus away from the road, even if for only a second. In addition to suppressing hearing, headphones can also be a cognitive distraction, taking a driver’s mind off the task at hand. Ford conducted a virtual-reality study and found that those driving with headphones were, on average, 4.2 seconds slower to identify street cues—such as an ambulance approaching behind them. 4.2 seconds may not sound like much, but it can be the difference between causing or avoiding a collision. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nine people die every day from distracted driving. Drivers may also face charges if they become involved in a collision, and an investigation shows that their wearing headphones was the cause of the crash.

What Are the Penalties for Wearing Headphones While Driving in Pennsylvania?

If you are driving with headphones, the police can pull you over and cite you for distracted driving, which carries a fine of $50 plus court costs and other fees. The violation does not add points to your driving record unless you are a commercial driver. 

If you are involved in an accident while wearing headphones, it is more likely you would be considered at fault. If the accident results in severe injuries or property damage, you may be liable for reimbursing the other party for their losses. Pennsylvania courts follow a modified comparative negligence rule. This rule bars you from recovering any compensation related to a car accident if you are found more than 50% to blame. If you are found 50% or less at fault, your compensation will still be reduced according to your percentage of fault. For example, if you are awarded $100,000 but found 40% at fault for wearing headphones, you will only receive 60% of your award, or $60,000.

Hurt in a Car Accident Caused by Headphones?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident because another driver was wearing headphones, speak to a Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer during a free consultation. We will help you recover the compensation you deserve.