Is it Legal to Ride a Motorcycle While Wearing Headphones?
Answer: This is a State specific law. In California it is legal to wear a listening device over one ear, but not both. In Missouri, headphones are legal to wear (although still advised against). In Illinois, headphones are illegal, but a single ear Bluetooth is legal to use.
Our recent post about listening to music while riding got us thinking: We need to discuss what is legal and what is not when it comes to riding with motorcycle headphones.
The relevant statutes vary by state, so we will go into detail on the law in several States, including California, Missouri, and Illinois law, since we actively practice and have many clients throughout these States. If you want to know about headphone laws while riding a motorcycle in your State, be sure to email us and request that we add it to the list.
California Law Regarding Motorcyclists and Headphones
California Vehicle Code 27400 states, “A person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not wear a headset covering, or earplugs in, both ears”.
Following this are a list of exceptions which will not apply to most normal drivers or riders, but if you would like to check them out, click the link above and you’ll be redirected to the specific California DMV Vehicle Code page. Some of the exceptions include hearing aids, operators of emergency vehicles and workers using construction equipment for highway maintenance.
This law makes it illegal to cover both ears with anything that will impair hearing. At the same time, the way the statute is written shows that it is legal to cover only one ear. So it’s as simple as leaving one of your earbuds out while driving or riding.
Are helmet-speaker systems legal in California?
Yes. Helmet speakers do not cover the ears like headphones, so they are legal for use. Helmet speakers are treated the same as speakers mounted directly to the bike (or car for that matter).
The absolute safest route is to avoid any distracting or inhibiting sounds to allow full concentration on your surroundings, but if you simply cannot be without your Celine Dion for the length of your commute then you are free to listen away. Just don’t let the California fuzz catch you with headphones in both ears. The CVC 27400 fine can be as high as $200.
Missouri Law Regarding Motorcyclists and Headphones
In Missouri, there is no law against riding with headphones in both ears. The Missouri State Highway Patrol would prefer that you keep at least one ear clear, but there is no penalty for wearing headphones of any kind.
Are helmet-speaker systems legal in Missouri?
Yes. Helmet speakers are legal for use. Helmet speakers are treated the same as speakers mounted directly to the bike (or car for that matter).
Illinois Law Regarding Motorcyclists and Headphones
Illinois Vehicle Code Chapter 12, section 610 states, “no driver of a motor vehicle on the highways of this State shall wear headset receivers while driving.”
Following this are a list of exceptions which include hearing aids, operators of emergency vehicles and workers using construction equipment for highway maintenance. Also notable is an exception for a “single-sided headset or earpiece with a cellular or other mobile telephone.”
This law makes it illegal to cover both ears with anything that will impair hearing. Unlike the California law, two sided earphones or earpieces are also illegal, presumably even if you are only using one. The only legal earpieces in the State of Illinois are a single-sided headset or earpiece used in conjunction with a cellular or other mobile telephone.
Are helmet-speaker systems legal in Illinois?
Yes. There is a specific statute in Illinois which authorizes the use of helmet speakers for communication, making them legal for use. The law does leave some ambiguity as to whether listening to music over them is permitted, as it only lists them to be legal for “two- way vocal communications.” Best practices may be to avoid the music with helmet speakers.
In summary, it seems that in the State of Illinois, if you want to listen to music while riding, the clearest legal path would be to use a single ear Bluetooth device linked to your cellphone, which does not have any restrictions on the type of usage allowed.
So there you have it. Of course, the absolute safest route is to avoid any distracting or inhibiting sounds to allow full concentration on your surroundings while riding. However, if you have the bug to listen to Van Halen or Bruce Springsteen while riding your motorcycle, keep these laws in mind so that you don’t run into trouble with the cops.