There are a number of reasons why a driver may wish to drive with headphones. Perhaps the driver’s vehicle does not have the hands-free calling capability, so the driver uses headphones to retain the ability to keep both hands on the wheel while on a call. Other drivers may wish to listen to a podcast or music without disturbing passengers. Regardless of the driver’s reasons for wearing headphones while driving, is the practice legal in California?
Wearing Headphones While Driving is Illegal in California
California Vehicle Code 27400 prohibits the use of headphones or earplugs while operating a motor vehicle.
There are a number of reasons why many states make it illegal to drive with headphones.
Some fear that it contributes to distracted driving. Drivers may be so focused on what they are listening to through the headphones that they miss traffic signals or road hazards.
In addition, drivers may be unable to hear the sounds of an approaching emergency vehicle, the sounds of tires screeching as car brakes, and other sounds that normally alert a driver to immediately take action to avoid an accident.
Penalties for Driving with Headphones in California
Drivers who use headphones while driving in California may receive both points on their licenses and fines.
A $197 fine may be issued to anyone who drives while wearing headphones.
In addition, a single point may be added to the driver’s driving record. These points are reported to the driver’s car insurance company, which may result in increased premiums for an extended period of time.
Defenses to Driving with Headphones in California
There are several defenses that a driver may be able to raise if he or she is ticketed for driving with headphones.
First, there are actually five exceptions to the prohibition on driving with headphones. These include:
- The individual is driving an authorized emergency vehicle;
- The individual is using a hearing aid;
- The individual is operating construction or maintenance equipment;
- The individual is wearing safety earplugs or a headset because he or she is collecting refuse; or
- The individual is wearing molds or earplugs (personal hearing protectors) that are specifically intended to reduce hazardous noise levels.
In addition to the individuals named above, others may also have valid defenses against a traffic infraction.
For example, the California law states that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with headphones in both ears. If the driver only had a headphone in one ear, the driver may be able to avoid a ticket.
In addition, it must be proven that the individual was actually operating a motor vehicle. For example, was the driver simply parked in a parking lot with the engine turned off? Such a scenario may not meet the legal definition of driving while using headphones.
Why Hire an Attorney for a Traffic Ticket?
Although the penalties for driving while using headphones may not seem significant as compared to other traffic offenses, it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney experienced in California traffic laws.
As stated, it is possible to receive a point toward one’s driver’s license for driving while using headphones. Depending on the individual’s driving record, an additional point on one’s license may result in thousands of dollars in additional insurance premiums over the next few years.
Further, if a driver accumulates a certain amount of points within a specified time frame, the driver may be deemed a negligent operator. Negligent operators may have their licenses suspended if:
- Four points are accumulated within a 12-month period
- Six points are accumulated within a 24-month period
- Eight points are accumulated within a 36-month period.
In California, depending on the nature of the infraction, a single traffic violation may result in a two- or three-point ticket. Therefore, an additional point may have serious consequences on your ability to keep your license.
If You Have Received a Ticket for Driving While Using Headphones, Contact Kuvara Law Firm Today
The San Rafael attorneys at Kuvara Law Firm are experienced in all types of traffic matters, ranging from tickets to motor vehicle accidents. We are prepared to help you fight your traffic ticket and protect your driving record. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today.