Is It Illegal to Drive While Wearing Headphones?

Is It Illegal to Drive While Wearing Headphones?
© Provided by Motoring Research

By John Redfern, Motoring Research

Driving a car while wearing headphones is considered dangerous by road safety experts, due to its potential to cause a distraction.

Department for Transport figures reveal distracted driving accounts for 15 percent of all road traffic collisions. More worryingly, distractions led to 26 percent of deaths on the road.

Despite the rise in the use of smartphones for music and navigation functions, however, no specific law bans the use of headphones while driving in the UK.

Driven to distraction

However, motorists could still be found guilty of breaking road traffic laws by driving with headphones on.

Rule 148 of the Highway Code states that motorists should ‘avoid distractions when driving or riding’. Included in the list of examples for distractions is ‘loud music’.

Research undertaken by Nelson and Nilsson in 1990 found that drivers took longer to react to hazards when wearing headphones. Judging speed was also found to be affected, causing them to drive faster.

Under section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the offence of careless driving can occur where a driver is ‘avoidably distracted’.

Read More: How To Overcome Anxiety About Driving

Risk of fines and points

Careless driving can be punished by a police officer with an on-the-spot fine of £100. This is accompanied by a driving licence endorsement of three points.

More serious offences could be referred to court. This can result in a fine of up to £5,000, nine penalty points, or even a driving ban.

It means that although no specific law prevents the wearing of headphones while driving, it could still result in offences being committed.

Listening to music through car speakers, if loud enough to be distracting, could run the risk of committing the same offences.

A global perspective

Other countries around the world have acted to tackle the hazard of driving in headphones.

Research by insurance website Quotezone found that 17 US states have enacted laws to ban the wearing of headphones while driving.

In July 2015, France made it illegal for any driver, rider or cyclist to wear sound-emitting devices.

This is punishable by a €135 (£115) fine or a three-point endorsement on a driving licence. For comparison, this would be the same punishment as failing to wear a seatbelt.

See more at Motoring Research

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item United Kingdom: Is It Illegal to Drive While Wearing Headphones?
Is It Illegal to Drive While Wearing Headphones?
Distracted driving contributes to a significant number of accidents on the road – and headphones can increase the risk. We explain the law. United Kingdom
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