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Is it Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving in Maryland?


If you spend a lot of time in your car, you may have seen other drivers wearing headphones. Generally, this is illegal in Maryland. Recent legislation makes driving while wearing ear buds, ear plugs, or over-ear headphones a traffic violation if the device covers both ears.
Suspected violations are grounds for police officers to pull drivers over and write tickets that include fines and points against the driver’s license. Further, a driver’s improper use of headphones may be grounds for assessing civil liability in the case of a car accident injury lawsuit.
The experienced Maryland car accident attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras keep up to date with legal developments such as these so that our clients don’t have to. As part of our services, we offer a complimentary initial case review for potential clients seeking advice. To take us up on this free offer, you can reach us at our offices at (410) 694-7291.

Can You Wear Headphones While Driving in Maryland?

Many states do not have laws that dictate whether a driver can use headphones while behind the wheel. Maryland, however, explicitly forbids drivers from wearing any kind of listening device in/over both ears while driving.
The specific law can be found in Title 21 of Maryland’s Transportation Code. the legislation specifically forbids the use of headsets, earbuds, or earplugs in both ears while operating a motor vehicle. the law, § 21-1120, covers driving on both public roadways and private property, such as driveways and commercial parking lots. However, these rules only apply if the headphones are covering both ears. Therefore, if you are using an ear bud in one ear while the other remains free, you are driving legally.

Can You Be Pulled Over for Wearing Headphones While Driving in Maryland?

In Maryland, a suspected violation of § 21-1120 is grounds for a police officer or state trooper to pull a driver over. Even if it is discovered that the driver was not violating the law (for instance, only wearing one earbud, which is legal), traffic stops can be cumbersome and potentially dangerous, and also offer the opportunity for a police officer to assess additional penalties or fines. If the officer decided to pull you over for some other reason and discovers that you were violating the law against headphones while driving, they can tack that on in addition to whatever citation with which they were originally concerned.

Exceptions to Maryland’s Law Against Wearing Headphones While Driving

The law allows for several narrow exceptions to § 21-1120. For instance, construction workers who are operating motor vehicles that produce injurious noise levels are permitted to wear safety equipment over both ears. If the driver has custom ear protection apparatuses made to protect against ear damage, they are permitted to wear them, provided that they can still hear a car horn while using them. Hearing aids are also permitted. Emergency personnel may also wear headphones in order to communicate with coworkers.
Obviously, these exceptions are very limited, so we recommend that you abide by the rules set forth in § 21-1120 if you don’t fit neatly within one of these sections. Otherwise, you risk fines, points against your license, and liability in the case of a car accident. These consequences are featured in the next section.

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

According to Maryland’s Transportation Code, violations of the headphone laws carry a $60 ticket and a point against the driver’s license. In instances where the driver’s wearing headphones contributed to an accident, the citation may include a $100 ticket and three points against the license.
No one wants to deal with fines or points against their license, which can pile up and lead to a license suspension or revocation. However, these are not the costliest consequences of wearing headphones while driving. If a driver’s decision to wear headphones contributed to or caused an accident that left another driver or passenger injured, the driver may be liable for damages from a lawsuit.
The laws about wearing headphones exist so that drivers will be able to hear another vehicle’s car horn or other warning sounds indicating imminent danger. Without the ability to hear, drivers may be unaware of an impending collision until it is too late to avoid it. A driver who could have avoided an accident if they had been able to hear the other vehicle’s car horn will likely be found negligent and therefore liable for damages by a Maryland court.
If you were in an accident where the other driver was wearing headphones at the time of the collision, we urge you to speak with one of our Baltimore car accident attorneys today, as you may stand to recover more money through your potential lawsuit than an ordinary insurance claim.

How to Sue Another Driver Who Was Wearing Headphones for a Car Accident in Maryland

In order to recover damages through a lawsuit against another driver who was negligently responsible for causing your injuries, you will have to file a complaint against them. Your time limit for filing your complaint is three years from the date of the accident.
In your complaint, you should include information about why the other driver was responsible for causing the accident (i.e., they were wearing headphones and couldn’t hear your car horn). Your complaint should also include a medical assessment of your injuries and the prognosis for your recovery. Compiling an effective complaint may take some time, so speak to one of our Columbia car accident attorneys today to give yourself the best chance at a substantial recovery.

More Questions About Traffic Code? Interested in a Potential Lawsuit? Rice, Murtha & Psoras is Here for You

We at Rice, Murtha & Psoras can offer a free review of your case to help you in your search for justice. Schedule today by calling our Ocean City car accident attorneys at (410) 694-7291.