Last updated October 12, 2021
In the UK there is no written law that using headphones whilst driving is illegal, but drivers should still consider the safety implications of using headphones while driving. In addition, while there is no specific law about using headphones, the police could pull you over and issue a penalty under the driving without due care and attention act - just like driving with flip flops or barefoot.
It is dangerous to use headphones whilst driving as it can cause you to be distracted from your surroundings and may cause an accident. For example, you are more likely to hear the siren of an emergency vehicle before you see it attempting to pass you in traffic. Furthermore, your reactions likely to be delayed as your hearing would have to shift to hear external sounds and you may be distracted removing earphones from your ears should you need to.
If you are involved in an accident while using headphones, the police could deem you at fault for the collision as you are driving carelessly. The nature of the accident or collision will be taken into consideration, and it will likely be resolved in court if you are deemed to be potentially at fault. In order to ensure you are driving with your full attention on the road, it is advised that you avoid using headphones unless necessary.
The penalties for dangerous or careless driving differ and the penalty will be decided by the police officer that observes you using headphones while driving. Careless driving due to the use of headphones can carry an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three penalty points on your licence. However, in more serious cases, such as where you’ve caused a collision as a result of dangerous driving, you could be slapped with a maximum penalty of £5,000 and up to nine penalty points on your licence.
If you are driving in Europe, some countries have already introduced specific laws to target drivers who use headphones at the wheel. For example, France passed a law in 2015 that makes it illegal for any road user to use a device in their ear that can emit sound. Anybody that breaks the law would be fined €150 and receive three penalty points on their licence.