Is it Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving in Florida?

Some people call their distracted driving “multitasking.” Drivers often believe they can perform two tasks simultaneously without decreasing performance. Unfortunately, that is not the case. 

If you are texting while driving, your eyes leave the road and your hands are not on the steering wheel. Your mind is on what you are typing or reading instead of the traffic ahead of you. One task is going to suffer. That task is usually driving.

Even though you might not take your eyes off of the road or your hands off of the steering wheel, mental distractions can be just as dangerous. Daydreaming and listening to music can cause you to miss a light turning from yellow to red or a pedestrian stepping out into a crosswalk.

Preventing a distraction is one of the reasons Florida laws prohibit wearing headphones while driving.

Florida Laws Prohibits Headphones While Driving

Florida Statute §316.304 expressly prohibits a motorist from wearing a headphone, headset, or another listening device while driving. Hearing aids, of course, are an exception to this rule. 

There are some other exceptions to the law also, including:

  • A law enforcement officer can wear any communication device necessary to perform their assigned duties.
  • Emergency vehicle operators may wear ear protection devices.
  • An applicant for a motorcycle license may wear a device while taking the examination as required by law.
  • A motorcyclist may use a motorcycle helmet equipped with speakers that do not directly contact the rider’s ears. The rider can hear surrounding sounds because their ears are not covered.
  • A headset with a cell phone that only has sound through one ear, so that the person can hear surrounding sounds through their other ear.
  • A person may use a headset in combination with the central base operation if the sound comes through just one ear, so that the person can hear surrounding sounds through their other ear.

The exceptions are designed to allow drivers to use headsets that provide hands-free communication and listening while still allowing them to hear surrounding sounds. When you wear a headset that covers both ears and produces sound in both ears, you may not be able to hear sirens and horns. 

Additionally, when a person wears a headset that has sound in both ears, there is more of a risk that the driver will become so engrossed in what they are listening to. Music, books, podcasts, and other material can take your focus off of traffic and the road, increasing your risk of a traffic accident.

Does the Same Law Apply to Bicycles?

Florida defines a bicycle as a vehicle. The law prohibiting headphones while driving applies to “vehicles.” Since a bicycle is considered a vehicle, the same law would apply. 

However, there are a few exceptions for bicyclists:

  • A bicyclist may wear hearing aids while riding a bicycle
  • Headphones can be worn while riding on a bicycle path that is not part of a roadway
  • Bicyclists may wear an earbud in one ear for use with a cell phone

Another key difference is that bicyclists riding on sidewalks are treated as pedestrians instead of motorists. Therefore, they can wear headsets while riding on a sidewalk because nothing prevents a pedestrian from wearing headphones.

However, just because something is legal does not make it safe. It is unsafe for a bicyclist to wear headphones while riding in any location. The headphones may prevent the rider from hearing warning sounds and other noises that could prevent a bicycle accident.

Allegations of Comparative Fault in Car Accident Cases

Florida’s comparative fault statute reduces a person’s compensation in a car accident claim to account for their share of fault. If you break the law by wearing headphones, the other driver’s insurance company may allege that you contributed to your accident — even if the other driver was mostly at fault. 

It may say that the headphones distracted you while you were driving or your distraction was a factor in the accident. It will argue you are not entitled to full compensation for your damages.

If the other party raises the allegations of contributory fault, it must prove your fault contributed to the cause of your injuries in court. For cases settling out-of-court, contributory fault is not as significant of a factor, but it could negatively impact settlement negotiations

If you are accused of contributing to the cause of an accident because you were wearing headphones, seek legal advice immediately.