Can you Wear Headphones While Riding a Motorcycle?


Many people use headphones to listen to music, pick up calls, or get better sound when watching movies. However, people also prefer wearing them when traveling. 

Headphones can give you an insulated experience, which makes you feel safe, all the while cutting noise from the oncoming traffic. But most people do so while driving a car. What about wearing headphones while riding a motorcycle? Can you still wear them?  

While technically, you can wear headphones when riding a motorcycle, different states have different regulations on the matter. Other than being used as hearing aids, the use of headphones while driving is illegal in most states. Some states like Colorado and Illinois allow the use of built-in helmet audio systems, but in-ear headphones are illegal.

What Are The Dangers Of Driving With Headphones? 

There are several reasons why the AAA (American Automobile Association) has partially banned the use of headphones while driving in some states. Let’s take a look at them and see what the potential dangers are of wearing headphones while driving. 

Headphones Can Limit Your Hearing 

A motorcyclist, unlike a car driver, is exposed to the elements at all times. While in a car, you can be relatively safe and balanced because of its room-like structure. A motorcycle needs lots of attention and control. Most of this control comes from your ability to hear traffic and the bike itself. The more sound your ear registers, the more conscious you are of your surroundings. 

With headphones on, your ability to hear horns or the roar of a car behind you can become severely limited. Because of this, you may be prone to an accident or severe damage. In fact, if your hearing ability is especially low, then wearing headphones can be even more dangerous. This is especially true if you are riding on a high-traffic road. 

Lowers Your Attention Span

As hinted above, wearing headphones can limit your hearing, and therefore your control over the motorcycle. However, if you’re listening to songs or are talking to someone, then your focus on the road becomes compromised. This is the reasoning behind the ban on talking on the phone while driving. 

When a person rides a motorcycle, they have to have their entire focus on making sure that they are balanced and that they don’t crash into a car. 

However, when you listen to songs on headphones, most of your attention goes towards the song and not the actual road. This way, you will lose focus when a car comes too close to you or when you’re about to bump into one.  

Reduces Reaction Reflex

Woman riding a motorcycle

Wearing headphones may also lower your ability to react to urgent situations immediately. For example, if you’re riding a motorcycle on the main highway and you’re listening to a song with the volume high up. You will most likely be too involved in that song and will be enjoying the open-air ride to notice anything else.

However, if a car rushes past you, you may be caught by surprise, and you may lose control over your vehicle. This means you won’t be able to appropriately react to the situation in a timely manner. 

Furthermore, it is a given that your sense of touch, sound, and sight work hand in hand when you’re riding a motorcycle. Removing any one of these senses can be hazardous to your body while driving. 

Precautions For Wearing Headphones While Riding A Motorcycle

If you do decide on wearing headphones while riding a motorcycle, then you can do so but with the necessary precautions.

While covering your ears with headphones may be illegal in most states, you can work your way around some of the laws, all the while maintaining safety while on the road. Let’s look at some of the precautions you should take:

Use Built-In Helmet Headphones 

Several states where earbuds or headphones have a visible wire coming out of them are deemed illegal or dangerous to wear when on a motorcycle. You can get fined for that in states like Alaska. However, several states recommend the use of built-in helmet headphones. 

Several companies have started to make headphones that come attached to the helmet. These headphones are mostly operated through a Bluetooth connection and can provide a similar experience as that of wearing a conventional set of headphones. 

The best part about these headphones is that they don’t cover your ear entirely. So, you’ll still be able to hear the traffic and will still be able to focus on the road. 

Built-in helmet headphones are also great for talking to people because they come with a microphone. These helmets have no wires, so they won’t come in the way of your arms and the motorcycle’s handlebar. 

Reduce The Volume Of Your Song

Whether you’re wearing conventional headphones or the built-in helmet headphones, you should always keep the volume of whatever you’re listening to on low. 

This is because a high volume song often tends to take over your bodily sensors. Your ability to feel the physical vibrations from the motorcycle will be conflated with the song’s vibrations. 

If the body is confused between the sensory impulses of the song and the motorcycle, then you may be prone to an accident. Hence, you should always keep the volume low so that the focus on the road remains undivided while you can still enjoy the faint sound of the music you like. 

Use A Playlist 

Another thing that you should make sure of is that you don’t touch your phone while driving. This includes song changes. You can not ride a motorcycle with one hand and shuffle between songs with the other. This will definitely cause you a whole lot of damage. Instead, make a playlist of songs that will keep playing songs without you having to choose one every three minutes. 

Using Just One Of The Two Earbuds

In many states, it is entirely legal to use one earbud while you are on a motorcycle. This is so that you can remain partially aware of your surroundings. However, this does not mean you can crank up the song’s volume on that single earbud either. Even with one earbud, you should always listen to songs on a low volume. 

What States Is It Legal To Wear Headphones While Riding A Motorcycle In?

Arizona and some cities and regions of Oregon permit the use of earbuds and headphones while others don’t. However, in most states, including Washington, Colorado, Virginia, and Ohio, you can only use built-in helmet headphones. Nonetheless, all states unanimously allow the use of hearing aids to be worn while riding a motorcycle. 

All of the laws, as stated above, are made by the AAA. Since there are not too many motorcycle riders in the United States, the laws concerning whether they can wear headphones while riding are also not too often present in the limelight. Nevertheless, some basic rules are to be followed when concerned with the question of wearing headphones while riding a motorcycle. 

What Are Some Good Alternatives To Wearing Headphones While Riding A Motorcycle?     

If you think you certainly need music or sound in order for you to ride a motorcycle, you can choose some alternatives to headphones.

One of the best alternatives is a motorcycle stereo. If you don’t mind letting others around you listen to your songs, then this is the best option. It is a portable speaker that you connect to your phone, and it plays songs loud out in the open. 

Another way is to use a helmet stereo. This is a little different from the built-in helmet headphones. This stereo comes attached with some helmets. It is a tiny speaker inside your helmet which produces a kind of surround sound that is limited to the helmet only. This means you can listen to whatever you like without having to cover your ears.    

Conclusion 

Whatever the case, you should always be aware of the law of the state you’re living in and the state that you may intend to travel to. Wearing headphones when riding a motorcycle can be like a double-edged sword. You can have a great experience because of the sheer openness of the road. However, you can also be unaware of the dangers that come with it. 

Additionally, you should always consult with all your options when going for a motorcycle ride. If you think wearing headphones on a motorcycle will be too much of a hassle, then you should shift to a stereo. However, there are many more options available to you. 

The final thing that you should remember is the distinction between a car and a motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle can be infinitely more dangerous than driving a car. 

While in the car, you can act slightly carelessly and still be fine. The motorcycle has no room for mistakes. So, you should always be careful when riding a motorcycle. 

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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