Headphones in or Out? Wearing Headphones as a Driver and Biker on California Roads

Are you a biker or driver in California? If so, you should know the truth about wearing headphones or earbuds while driving or biking and how doing so could affect a potential personal injury case.

Driving with Headphones

California Vehicle Code 27400 states that drivers of vehicles are prohibited from wearing headsets and earplugs that cover, rest on, or are inserted in both ears. There are several exceptions to this rule. A person operating an authorized emergency vehicle, a person operating either special construction equipment or equipment used in the maintenance of a highway, and a person engaged in the operation of refuse collection equipment who is wearing a safety headset or safety earplugs are all excluded from the statute. So too are people wearing personal hearing protectors in the form of earplugs or molds that are specifically designed to lessen dangerous noise levels and individuals using hearing aids.

Biking with Headphones

California Vehicle Code 27400 also applies to bicycle riders. It is prohibited to wear headsets and earplugs that cover, rest on, or are inserted in both ears while biking. Note that the statute mentions both ears, so in theory, riding or driving with one earbud or headphone on or in may not be prohibited. However, this rule does apply regardless of whether or not there is music playing or anything coming out of the headphones or earbuds.

Consequences for Riding or Driving with Headphones

A driver or bicycle rider who violates this statute will receive a fine as well as points on his or her California driving record. Remember that points assessed on a person’s driving record can raise insurance rates for the driver and can result in the driver being declared a negligent operator, which can further result in the suspension of one’s driver’s license.

How Might Riding or Driving with Headphones Affect Your Case?

A driver or bicyclist who violates this statute may be a danger on the road, and may cause an accident that injures someone else. If the injured party files a lawsuit against the driver or bicyclist, the driver or bicyclist may be found negligent. In California, you are presumed automatically negligent if you violate a statute. This is legally called negligence per se. This means that if a driver or bicyclist violates the statute and causes damages, he or she may be responsible for them. If a driver or bicyclist violates the statute and is injured himself, a factfinder may conclude that he or she was negligent and therefore is responsible for his or her own damages.

Defenses for Breaking the Statute

There are several potential defenses a driver or biker may have if accused of driving or biking with headphones on or in. The driver or biker may be exempt from the law because he or she falls into one of the excluded categories of individuals listed above. Or the driver or biker may contend that he or she had only one headphone in instead of two, and the law prohibits the wearing of headphones in both ears, not just one.

If you have been in an automobile or biking accident, you may have a claim. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney today to assist you in analyzing whether you can and should pursue legal remedies.