For years, the state of California has had a total ban on over-the-ear headphones for drivers and bicyclists alike, a rule which makes sense in many ways. With so many drivers on the road, everyone using those roads needs to be completely aware of their surroundings—which includes being able to hear what is happening around them.
However, California expanded that law to include earbuds that are placed in the ear as well. If found using them in both ears, Californians could face a fine.
Starting on January 1, 2016, it became illegal for any driver or cyclist in California to wear earbud-style headphones in both ears, becoming the 14th state to have such restrictions. To avoid the loophole present in the original law about over-the-ear headphones, this new law specifically states that no driver or bicyclist can have, “earplugs in or earphones covering, resting on, or inserted in, both ears.” Failure to obey this law could result in a fine of $160 as well as court costs.
It is important to note that the law only states it is illegal to have earbuds or earplugs in both ears while riding a bike or operating a motor vehicle. Those who wish to have one earbud in to listen to music, listen to a Bluetooth speaker so they can have a conversation on the phone, or for any other reason may still do so.
It is also important for drivers and riders to understand that it does not matter if there is no sound coming out of earbuds or headphones they are wearing in both ears. Because they were in or covering both ears, they could still face a fine.
However, there are also exceptions to this new California law for certain individuals. They include those who are:
- Operating an emergency vehicle
- Workers using highway maintenance or construction equipment
- In the refuse collection industry
- People with hearing aids
- Wearing hearing protectors to protect their ears and hearing
Even those included within the exceptions are still expected to be able to hear sounds around them as they travel, including emergency sirens and the sounds of other drivers on the road.
For most, wearing earbuds or headphones in both ears is enough for police to stop the driver or cyclist and give them a ticket. For that reason, it is important that everyone who is out on California’s roads understands the new law and complies with it at all times. If they fail to do so and they cause an accident because they could not hear what was going on around them, they could be found negligent for that accident and—through a personal injury lawsuit—may be held liable to provide compensation to victims.