Motorcycle Headphone Law: Is It Legal in Your State?

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Listening to the right music can make a great motorcycle ride even better.

However, depending on where you ride, this can be easier said than done.

Wearing headphones while riding a motorcycle has a different legal status in every state, with many prohibiting the practice.

Go over the definitions below and then check your state to see if it’s legal in your situation. 

Earbuds vs Headphones

We have a lot of words for the stuff we stick in our ears. Generally, people refer to the small speakers you can stick directly into your ears as “earbuds,” while the large speakers that fit around your head and are supported by a headband are “headphones.”

Read more about motorcycle earbuds.

Regardless of what you call which device, the law treats them all basically the same unless otherwise specified.

If it covers your ear canal so that outside sound is fully or partially blocked, it may be illegal to wear while operating a motorcycle, depending on the state.

What About Helmet Speakers?

These days helmet communication devices have become popular in the motorcycle community.

These are basically speakers built into a helmet or installable inside it. They connect to your phone or each other to allow for communication between riders, and they can usually pick up radio or play audio from your phone as well.

Because these devices don’t cover your ears and still allow you to hear outside sounds, they’re sometimes classified differently.

In other words, while some states make earbuds and headphones illegal on motorcycles, they still permit helmet speakers and Bluetooth intercom devices.

Also read: How to listen to music on a motorbike.

Motorcycle Headphones Laws By State


Alabama

Legal.

There is no law in Alabama against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Alaska

Illegal.

Alaska state law specifically prohibits a driver of a motor vehicle, which includes motorcycles, from wearing

“a headset, headphones, or other headgear designed for receiving sound and transmitting sound to the driver.”

However,

“headgear-receiving equipment used for communications between motorcyclists” is allowed. This implies that in-helmet intercom devices are legal.


Arizona

Legal.

There is no law in Arizona against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Arkansas

Legal.

There is no law in Arkansas against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


California

Illegal.

California state law prohibits a person operating a motor vehicle such as a motorcycle from wearing

“a headset covering, earplugs in, or earphones covering, resting on, or inserted in, both ears.” This doesn’t include hearing aids.

Additionally, because the law specifies “both ears,” you could presumably ride with an earbud in just one ear as long as your other ear is free. You can also use helmet speakers as long as they don’t cover your ears.  


Colorado

Illegal.

Colorado state law is refreshingly specific. It prohibits motorcycle riders from wearing earphones, defining “earphones” as:

“…any headset, radio, tape player, or other similar device which provides the listener with radio programs, music, or other recorded information through a device attached to the head and which covers all of or a portion of the ears. ‘Earphones’ does not include speakers or other listening devices that are built into protective headgear or a device or portion of a device that only covers all or a portion of one ear and that is connected to a wireless, handheld telephone.”

In other words, earbuds and headphones are illegal, but most helmet speakers and intercom devices are allowed. 


Connecticut

Legal.

There is no law in Connecticut against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Delaware

Legal.

but… There is no law in Delaware against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices. However, state law does prohibit the use of headphones while riding bicycles, so it’s possible that local law enforcement could apply that law to motorcyclists. It’s best to check with state officials first. 


Florida

Illegal.

Florida state law states that

“No person shall operate a vehicle while wearing a headset, headphone, or other listening device.” This doesn’t include hearing aids.

That said, Florida does allow helmet speakers and Bluetooth intercom devices as long as they don’t make direct contact with your ears or only cover one ear.


Georgia

Illegal.

Georgia state law prohibits

“wearing a headset or headphone which would impair such person’s ability to hear.”

However, it specifically allows you to

“wear a headset or headphone for communication purposes.”

This seems to imply that headphones covering the ears are illegal while bluetooth intercom devices that don’t cover the ears are legal.


Hawaii

Legal.

There is no law in Hawaii against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Idaho

Legal.

There is no law in Idaho against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Illinois

Illegal.

Illinois state law blatantly prohibits any driver of a motor vehicle, including motorcycles, from wearing “headset receivers” while driving or riding. 

Nevertheless, the law specifically allows for devices used in two-way communication as well as those connected to a cell phone. These devices must be “single-sided.” That is, they can only provide sound to one ear, leaving the other free.  


Indiana

Legal.

There is no law in Indiana against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Iowa

Legal.

There is no law in Iowa against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Kansas

Legal.

There is no law in Kansas against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Kentucky

Legal.

There is no law in Kentucky against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Louisiana

Illegal.

Louisiana state law prohibits

“the wearing of headphones by any operator of a motor vehicle.”

However, this only applies if the headphones cover or are inserted into both ears. You may use any listening device only covering or inserted into one ear.

Moreover, headsets are permitted.

“installed in a helmet and worn so as to prevent the speakers from making direct contact with the user’s ears”

This includes most helmet speakers and Bluetooth intercom devices.

Finally, it’s worth noting that law enforcement officers cannot stop or detain you solely for violating the law against the use of headphones. You must commit some other violation as well.   


Maine

Legal.

There is no law in Maine against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Maryland

Illegal.

Maryland state law prohibits “earphones” and “headsets” if they’re worn over or in both ears. They’re allowed if only worn over or in one ear.  


Massachusetts

Illegal.

Massachusetts state law states that

“no person shall operate a motor vehicle while wearing headphones.”


Michigan

Legal.

But… There is no law in Michigan against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices. However, law enforcement officers may charge you with reckless driving if they believe your earbuds, headphones, or other audio devices are interfering with your operation of the motorcycle.


Minnesota

Illegal.

Minnesota state law prohibits motorcycle riders from wearing

“headphones or earphones that are used in both ears simultaneously.”

Since it specifies both ears, you may presumably ride a motorcycle while using earbuds, headphones, or helmet speakers in or over just one ear. Hearing aids are also allowed.  


Mississippi

Legal.

There is no law in Mississippi against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Missouri

Legal.

There is no law in Missouri against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Montana

Legal.

There is no law in Montana against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Nebraska

Legal.

There is no law in Nebraska against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Nevada

Legal.

There is no law in Nevada against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


New Hampshire

Legal.

There is no law in New Hampshire against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


New Jersey

Legal.

There is no law in New Jersey against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


New Mexico

Legal.

There is no law in New Mexico against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


New York

Illegal.

New York state law is somewhat vague, but it prohibits you from operating a motorcycle while

“wearing more than one earphone attached to a radio, tape player or other audio device.”

This seems to allow for wearing an earbud or headphone in just one ear or using a helmet speaker or Bluetooth intercom device that has a speaker over just one ear. 


North Carolina

Legal.

There is no law in North Carolina against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


North Dakota

Legal.

There is no law in North Dakota against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Ohio

Illegal.

Ohio state law prohibits the operation of a motorcycle

“while wearing earphones over or in both ears.”

This means that you can wear earbuds or headphones as long as you only place them in or over one ear.

Additionally, the law specifically excludes “speakers or other listening devices that are built into protective headgear” from the definition of “earphones.” Therefore, helmets with Bluetooth speakers are allowed.

Lastly, the law permits the wearing of earplugs if their purpose is protecting your ears from the loud noises of your motorcycle.


Oklahoma

Legal.

There is no law in Oklahoma against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Oregon

Legal.

There is no law in Oregon against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Pennsylvania

Illegal.

Pennsylvania state law makes it illegal to operate a vehicle, including motorcycles,

“while wearing or using one or more headphones or earphones.”

However, there are a few exceptions.

First, hearing aids are perfectly legal.

Second, you can use a headset that connects to your cell phone as long as it only “provides sound through one ear.” You should be able to hear surrounding noises with your other ear.

Finally, motorcycle communication devices such as Bluetooth intercoms are allowed as long as they only cover one ear.  


Rhode Island

Illegal.

Rhode Island state law prohibits operating a motorcycle

“while wearing earphones, a headset, headphone, or other listening device.”

This generally doesn’t apply to helmet speakers and Bluetooth intercom devices, though, as long as they’re installed in your helmet and don’t make contact with your ears.

Furthermore, you may use “a headset in conjunction with a cellular telephone” if it only provides sound through one ear.

Hearing aids are legal as well.


South Carolina

Legal.

There is no law in South Carolina against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


South Dakota

Legal.

There is no law in South Dakota against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Tennessee

Legal.

There is no law in Tennessee against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Texas

Legal.

There is no law in Texas against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Utah

Legal.

There is no law in Utah against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Vermont

Legal.

There is no law in Vermont against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Virginia

Illegal.

Virginia state law generally prohibits the use of earbuds and headphones in both ears while riding a motorcycle. However, in addition to permitting the use of earphones in just one ear, the law allows the use of intercom systems installed in your helmet. 


Washington

Illegal.

Washington state law prohibits the wearing of headsets and earphones while riding a motorcycle. However, it’s legal to wear a helmet with a built-in headset or wireless communications systems, assuming these devices are approved by the Washington state patrol. Therefore, it’s a good idea to contact them first.


West Virginia

Legal.

There is no law in West Virginia against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


Wisconsin

Legal.

But… There is no law in Wisconsin against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices. However, a bill was introduced in 2015 to prohibit the use of headphones. Even though it didn’t pass at the time, you should keep yourself updated on the legal situation in Wisconsin.


Wyoming

Legal.

There is no law in Wyoming against wearing earbuds or headphones or using helmet speakers or intercom devices.


District of Columbia

Illegal.

The law in the District of Columbia states that

“no person shall use headphones that cover both ears or earbuds in both ears while operating a motor vehicle.”

This includes motorcycles. You may presumably use headphones if they cover or are inserted in just one ear. Hearing aids are legal too.


Stay Up to Date

Laws change all the time. Plus, new audio technology comes out regularly, especially in the case of Bluetooth intercom devices. As a result, it’s always a good idea to check current laws or contact your state police to see whether your specific device is legal.