Wearing Apple Airpods provides drivers with an immersive musical experience on the road. At the same time, driving a car with noise-canceling headphones is a highly dangerous activity. But is wearing AirPods while driving an illegal activity?
While driving, it is illegal to wear Apple Airpods in both ears, even when the earbuds are just resting in the ears. Drivers should be able to hear traffic and other environmental noise at all times. The law makes an exception for driving with AirPods inserted in only one ear.
The use of in-ear headsets or headphones in traffic is considered dangerous due to their noise-canceling and properties. Furthermore, the music can create a sound barrier between a driver and possible incoming traffic.
Where Wearing AirPods While Driving Is Illegal
The noise-cancellation that especially AirPods Pro and AirPods Max have can create dangerous traffic situations, which is why wearing AirPods in both ears is illegal in these US states:
- New York
- Rhode Island
All states listed above have laws against using headsets, in-ear headphones, or similar ear-covering devices. For a police officer giving you a fine, it doesn’t matter if the device is turned on or off. It is generally allowed to wear just one AirPod in one of your ears.
Why Is It Not Safe To Drive With Headphones?
Driving with headphones makes it difficult for drivers to hear traffic sounds. It is not safe to use a car when the driver is unaware of its surroundings. Wireless headphones such as AirPods often have noise-canceling technology, making drivers less aware of incoming traffic.
Wearing AirPods increases the likelihood of a traffic accident between the users of a car and other road participants by a significant amount. This is not just true for regular car users, but even for pedestrians.
Having awareness of the world around you is essential on the road, as danger can emerge within a split second. In that sense, not having music blasting in your ears makes sense. But why is radio allowed, and not AirPods?
Driving With Radio Is Allowed, But Not AirPods
Doesn’t seem very fair, does it? However, there is a fundamental difference between blocking off your ears from environmental noise, and having some music playing in the background.
The point is to be able to immediately respond to a potentially dangerous traffic situation.
This is possible when you’re using a hands-free set on your phone, or when you are simply using the car radio. Admittedly, if you’re using maximum volume on your car radio this becomes a lot harder, but regulating car radio volume is simply not practical.
The lawmakers needed to draw the line somewhere. In most states, that meant making it illegal to wear AirPods in both ears. The laws forbidding the use of Apple products do not exist, but lawmakers instead focussed on a wider headphone ban in cars. Their reasoning was simple:
- Drivers need to be able to hear emergency services
- Drivers should be aware of their immediate surroundings while on the road
- Drivers need to focus on driving, able to respond to changes in traffic in split seconds
AirPods Banned In Cars: It’s A Bit Unclear
Most countries, including the United States, have not imposed a nationwide ban on wearing Apple AirPods while driving. A dozen US states have opted to impose a ban on headphone use for drivers to improve road safety.
The United Kingdom (as well as most countries in the European Union) do not have such bans imposed. One exception is Australia, where the government has made it illegal to wear headphones while driving a vehicle for all drivers. This ban also includes the use of AirPods as a car driver.
It is generally best to request information from your local automobile organization or government on the exact regulations in your local area. There are usually no clear laws on the use of new technologies while driving (such as AirPods). And even when there is, there is some wiggle room available, as you can usually wear one AirPod, while keeping the other ear free.
That begs the question, what if you’re deaf in one ear, and use only one AirPod while driving? Still illegal, as the law generally mandates that a driver should not be distracted. Make sure you drive safely and responsibly. That means one thing: no distractions. Not even listening to your favorite musical artist in the car. Just use those car speakers instead!