Lace up your cycling shoes, put on your helmet, and pop in your earbuds. Now you’re ready to hit the roads and pedal those holiday pounds off. You plan to get in at least ten miles, and you’ve cued up just the right tunes to get you through the ride. But are you breaking the law?
It is illegal to wear headphones while driving a car in Florida, and can be punished with a fine of over $150.00. Florida Statute § 316.304 states:
No person shall operate a vehicle while wearing a headset, headphone, or other listening device, other than a hearing aid or instrument for the improvement of defective human hearing.
This law serves an important purpose because drivers wearing headphones may not be able to hear vital sounds or signals (such as an emergency vehicle siren), horns from other cars. Moreover, using headphones to listen to podcasts or music while driving is distracting, and distracted driving is the leading cause of accidents on the road – more than speeding or drunk driving.
What about wearing headphones while riding a bike?
Florida law says that no “person shall operate a vehicle while wearing a headset, headphone, or other listening device . . .” The key word in this rule is “vehicle,” because the Florida bicycle statute states that for purposes of the law, a bicycle is a vehicle, and the bike rider is treated in the same manner as a driver. This makes Florida one the few states where it is illegal to wear earbuds while riding a bicycle.
However, there are a few exceptions to the law:
- Hearing aids may be worn while riding a bike
- Cyclists may wear an earbud in one ear for use with a cell phone
- Headphones are not illegal to wear while riding on a bike path that is not part of a roadway
Florida’s bicycle law distinguishes between riding on a road verses a sidewalk. While riding on the highways, cyclists are treated as drivers and have the same duties as any other vehicle operator. If the bicycle is not on a roadway, the cyclist has the same rights as a pedestrian. Pedestrians and cyclists can legally wear headsets on bicycle paths or sidewalks.
Other Reasons Cyclists Should Not Wear Headphones
The ability to hear warning sounds is an important part of biking safety. You should not put your health or life at risk just to listen to some music. Florida is one of the most dangerous states for cyclists and often has the most fatalities in the entire country due to biking accidents. If you are injured in a bike accident, you should seek advice from an attorney.