If you’re operating a vehicle (whether it’s motorized or not) in Virginia, you can’t have both ears covered or plugged by headphones or earbuds. You can only use ONE earbud.
Hello. I am Andrew Flusche. I’m a traffic and misdemeanor attorney. I see people all of the time driving along in their vehicle listening to music through their iPod or whatever with two earphones in their ears. And unfortunately, I have to tell you that in Virginia, that’s illegal. Virginia law says that it is illegal to drive or operate any kind of vehicle, bicycle, moped, pretty much anything on the highway, if you have earphone or earbuds in or on both ears. So what does that mean? Well, basically it means that you can’t have both ears covered by anything.
Now the statutes uses the word “using” so the argument could be made that if you just have the earbuds in the ear but you are not actually pumping music or sound through them, that you’re not using them. But I don’t think a lot of judges would parse it that closely, honestly. I think if the officer testified that the earbuds were in your ears, I think the judges would say that you’re using the earbuds; they’re in your ears. So the rule of thumb that you have to use in Virginia if you want to listen to your iPod or your smartphone or whatever, is either plug it into the stereo in your car so you don’t need earphones at all, or only have one earbud in your ear.
I’m an avid cyclist, I love road biking and I love listening to podcasts or audiobooks or music while I’m cycling. What I do is I have earbuds and I put one earbud in my ear. Usually I do the right ear, since that’s the ear when you’re bicycling that’s furthest away from traffic. So therefore, my left ear’s wide open and clear. I can hear vehicles and traffic but I can also listen to my audiobook or music and that complies with Virginia law as long as you have one ear free. So remember, if you’re operating any kind of vehicle, a bicycle or moped, on a highway in Virginia, you need to be sure to keep one ear free at all times and that’s even if you’re using cell phone hands free set. That still is considered an earphone or earbud. So you cannot cover both ears.
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