Is It Illegal to Wear Headphones While Driving in Ontario?
There are times when driving in Ontario can feel dull or even tedious. Few things are worse than being stuck in gridlock traffic after a long day at work — a common way to combat this monotony is by listening to music.
Many people find listening to music on their routine drives and daily commutes enjoyable. The right playlist or album can turn a typical morning into a fantastic start to a day.
However, if your stereo doesn’t work, you may have thought about popping in a set of earphones.
Earphones are undoubtedly convenient, as they allow you to listen to your favourite songs at a respectful volume. However, have you ever taken a moment to ask yourself if wearing headphones while driving could get you into trouble?
Introduction to distracted driving
Before we can understand if wearing earbuds while driving is illegal, we need to dissect Ontario’s distracted driving laws.
According to Ontario’s distracted driving laws, it’s illegal to take part in the following activities while driving or stopped at a traffic light:
- Text or dial a number on your smartphone or a wireless device (if there is an emergency, you’re allowed to dial 911 for help)
- Use electronic entertainment devices (gaming systems, tablets, etc.)
- View screens (built-in GPS are exempt from this rule)
- Physically program a built-in or third-party GPS (voice commands are exempt from this rule)
Is it illegal to wear headphones while driving in Ontario or not?
Now that we have a general understanding of what the Ontario government considers distracted driving, we can assess whether or not it’s illegal. And unfortunately, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you may have thought.
Presently, the Ontario government doesn’t approve of drivers wearing two earphones while driving, as this is considered a risk. After getting caught driving with headphones Ontario drivers can expect to pay a $615 fine.
However, the Ontario government does allow drivers to wear one individual wireless headphone or earpiece. Similarly, the Ontario government also permits drivers to communicate via lapel buttons and Bluetooth devices.
With this in mind, you can see why many drivers find the rules slightly confusing, as there are several factors that they need to consider.
Risks of driving with headphones
Although it may not be illegal to wear a headphone or earpiece while driving, it still comes with its fair share of risks.
Being able to hear correctly is imperative in many aspects of life, especially driving. Drivers with obstructed hearing are often at a higher risk of getting into an accident. This is due to the fact that they’re less aware of their surroundings and have slower reaction times.
Not to mention, if an ambulance happens to pass you, you’re less likely to hear the sirens. Failing to pull over for an ambulance is not only dangerous, but it can also lead to a hefty fine (generally between $400 and $2,000 for first-time offenders).
With this in mind, you may want to think twice before popping in an earpiece during your next long drive.
May not be eligible for insurance coverage
Despite our best efforts, we all make mistakes, even on the road. This is why drivers purchase auto insurance — so that they are financially covered if or when they get into an accident.
However, even though it’s not illegal to wear headphones while driving Ontario insurance agencies may not cover you if you get into an accident while wearing them (even if you aren’t technically at fault).
This is due to the fact that auto insurance providers are much less likely to cover any damage if the driver’s senses are obstructed in any way (this also includes vision).
Now that you know these factors, you may want to reconsider opting for an earpiece or headphone for your upcoming road trip.
Earphone laws in other Canadian provinces
Ontario isn’t the only province with laws regarding headphones and driving safety. Many provinces have their own sets of rules and regulations that drivers should be aware of.
Knowing the rules will help keep you safe and stay out of trouble if you’re ever visiting one of the following provinces:
In British Columbia, drivers are currently allowed to wear one headphone while driving. Drivers are also permitted to access wireless and one-touch devices.
The fine for getting caught wearing two earphones while driving in British Columbia is $368.
The province of Alberta doesn’t have any specific laws regarding earphones or earpieces while driving.
In Saskatchewan, drivers are permitted hands-free use of mobile devices, along with both wired and wireless headsets.
The province of Manitoba has a similar stance on driving with earphones as Ontario, allowing drivers to wear one earphone on the road.
However, it is worth noting that the Manitoba government does feel that wearing an earphone can lead to distracted driving. In Manitoba, a distracted driving ticket can lead to a $672 fine.
Quebec has strict laws against the use of mobile phones and earphones while driving. Drivers must not use their phones on the road, except via voice activation.
Additionally, wearing two earphones while driving is considered to be illegal. Getting caught wearing more than one earphone can lead to a $100 to $200 fine.
Despite having strict laws about the use of hands-free mobile devices, the province doesn’t currently have any specific rules regarding the use of headsets or earpieces while driving.
Nova Scotia doesn’t currently have any laws regarding earphones while driving.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island may have the most specific set of rules regarding headphone safety out of all the provinces.
In Prince Edward Island, only “Stage 1” and “newly licensed” drivers are forbidden from using headphones. Stage 1 or newly licensed drivers that get caught wearing headphones on the road can expect to pay a fine between $575 and $1,275.
Newfoundland and Labrador
There are no laws against the use of headphones or headsets in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Will you still drive with headphones?
Although it isn’t illegal to drive with an earphone or earbud, we don’t recommend it. We feel that drivers should take every safety precaution on the road, even if it means missing out on your favourite playlist in the morning.