Something very scary happened when I was driving down the 33 headed out of downtown Buffalo. 

As I was headed towards the airport, a white car in the left lane started to swerve right into my lane. Although the car was behind me at the time, the reckless driving caught my eye in my driver’s side rear view mirror. 

He was driving faster than the allotted speed limit, and as he got closer to me, the driver continued to swerve. It made me a little nervous, so like most people would have done, I chose to honk my horn in this situation. 

If he was a distracted driver, either from texting or looking down at a soon-to-be eaten sandwich (neither of which I recommend), he would have surely heard my horn honk…right?

Instead, he continued to swerve towards my direction. Thankfully, I had some space in the right lane (since I was in the middle lane at the time of the incident) and I managed to avoid a collision. 

But as the driver sped past me, I found out why my horn did nothing.

He had earbuds in.

I couldn’t get the image out of my head, and once I got home, I did some research about whether or not it is legal to drive while wearing earbuds in New York state.

It Is Illegal To Drive With Headphones Or Earbuds

According to, you can not wear headphones or earbuds while driving, as stated in Article 375(24)-a of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. The article also states that you are not allowed to use more than one earbud, therefore you cannot use earbuds (plural) while operating a vehicle. 

As long as you are able to lend an ear to your surroundings, you can pop the other one in, but you have to be able to hear what’s going on around you….like a horn honking or an ambulance. 

In New York state, driving with earbuds in both ears or with headphones on is classified as a form of distracted driving, and the following are the potential fines for breaking this law:

  • A first offense may be a fine between $50 - $200.
  • A second offense, within an 18-month span, is another $50 - $200.
  • For a third offense within a year and a half, your fine can reach up to $450. 

It’s dangerous to drive without hearing your surroundings, so it makes sense why you can’t wear headphones or earbuds.   

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