No Texting & Driving, But What About AirPods?
Learn more about the legality of driving while wearing AirPods or earphones with this article written by our senior law clerk, Sarah!
Texting & DrivingAccording to Section 316.305 of the Florida Statutes, a person may not operate a motor vehicle while texting. Specifically, the statute states
“A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging. As used in this section, the term “wireless communications device” means any handheld device used or capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communications service as defined in s. 812.15 and that allows text communications. For the purposes of this paragraph, a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition in this paragraph.”
Governor Ron DeSantis amended this statute in 2019, making texting while driving a primary traffic offense punishable by a $30 dollar fine for the first offense that can increase to over $100 according to Section 318.18 of the Florida Statutes. If you would like to read more about texting and driving in Florida, you can do so here.
Lack of EnforcementState figures suggest this law prohibiting texting and driving is rarely enforced. Law enforcement in each county is required under the law to annually submit the number of texting violations they issue to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Florida’s census of texting violations, “published earlier this year, is missing tickets entirely from more than 20 of the state’s sheriff’s departments and at least 56 of 155 municipal police departments.” After failing to submit their numbers, it was revealed that Broward County deputies issued a mere 18 citations for texting while driving throughout 2021. This lack of enforcement follows findings from last year, the first year the law was enforced, where out of Florida’s 15 million drivers, only 3,410 citations were issued. With such an apparent lack of enforcement when it comes to driving, frequent users of air pods are likely to not think twice about using them while driving.
I’m Not Texting, So What’s the Problem?Regarding headphones, Section 316.304 of the Florida Statutes states that 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. However, the statute adds that the rule does not apply to anyone using a headset in conjunction with a cellphone that only provides sound through one ear and allows surrounding sounds to be heard with the other ear. Therefore, drivers are permitted to use one air pod or similar kind of headphone while operating a vehicle. This statute is intended to prevent drivers that are listening to music from being distracted from the road, as well as ensure that wearing them does not cancel out the noise of other drivers alerting them of danger. With AirPods allowing you to switch them to active noise cancellation mode, it is especially imperative that you do not use both while driving.
Can I Ride a Bike While Wearing AirPods?Despite Florida not requiring the use of bicycle helmets for anyone over the age of 16, or motorcycle helmets over the age of 21, bicyclists are not permitted to wear AirPods or any kind of headphone in both ears. Florida defines a bicycle in Section 316.2065 as a vehicle operated by human power, and therefore, the headphone regulation for cars is also applicable to bicycles.
ExceptionsBesides the main exception that allows you to wear a single AirPod or similar headphone in one ear, the statute allows both to be worn for:
Law enforcement officers and emergency vehicle operators acting within their duty, and
Motorcyclists who use a headset that is installed in a helmet and worn so as to prevent the speakers from making direct contact with the user’s ear so that the user can still hear his or her surroundings.
Despite leniency when it comes to enforcement of texting and driving laws, it is imperative that drivers abide by the texting and driving law as well as law regulating the use of headphones. Headphones, especially those as advanced as AirPods that allow you to completely silence your surroundings, can pose a serious risk to everyone on the road and must be recognized as the dangerous distraction they are.