Is it illegal to wear headphones while driving?

6 February 2018
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The rise of connectivity to our phones has seen them integrated to our cars as a major feature. However, this integration has come with a terrible cost thanks to an increasing number of drivers having horrendous crashes while distracted by a phone call, text message, or navigation. 

Authorities all over the world were quick to ban talking on mobile phones while driving, increasing that restriction, fairly recently making it illegal to touch your mobile phone while driving. And this ban was a uniform move nation-wide.

So, how do you answer a call, listen to navigation instructions, or even listen to music if your car doesn’t have some form of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi integration? Interestingly, there are no specific laws banning wearing headphones while driving, although the police can still fine you if they believe you are not in full control of your vehicle.
 
You also need to have the phone secured in a commercially-made fixed mount that does not obscure exterior vision, or require you to hold the device in your hand, lap, or cradled against your body. So, leaving it in the centre console or sitting in your lap is out, too.
 
Furthermore, Learner or Provisional drivers (drivers on their P-plates) are banned from using any function of a mobile phone while driving. This includes phone calls, using navigation, or listening to music – and this includes fully licenced drivers in West Australia. You can only use functions like GPS if you don’t have to physically touch the screen.

This would mean that, if you are on your L-plates or P-plates in NSW it is completely illegal for you to drive while wearing headphones. And we stress that this article is a guide and you should check with authorities in your state or territory about the legality of wearing headphones while driving, before doing so on public roads.

While researching this article we haven’t been able to find mention of wearing headphones while driving being excluded from, or voiding insurance cover. However, most Product Disclosure Statements (PDS) from major insurers have a provision where cover is denied if you knowingly engage in a dangerous act or drive in a negligent manner.
 
We have never heard of a claim being denied due to using headphones while driving, there is no way of knowing every scenario behind every potential crash, so we recommend checking the PDS from your insurer for the full list of exclusions that apply to the product you have purchased.

For a brief rundown of rules surrounding mobile phone use Australia-wide, check out Keep Your Eyes on the Road. If you’re still unsure about the rules in your state, check these links from each state and territory governments: NSW’s rulesVictoria’sQueensland’s; South Australia’s; West Australia’s; Tasmania’s; ACT’s; and the Northern Territory’s.

This article is not intended as legal advice. You should check with your local road authority to verify the information written here is suitable to your situation before driving in this manner.

​Had any issues behind the wheel with headphones on? Tell us in the comments below.

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