ST. LOUIS – You may be tempted to use headphones while driving if your car radio isn’t working or if you want to listen to a timely phone call.

It’s certainly an option, but there could be some risks associated with this behavior. And in some cases, driving with your headphones on may be against the law.

South St. Louis County sees string of car break-ins and thefts

Since there isn’t a national law against using headphones while driving, legal considerations vary from state to state.

If you think about using headphones while driving in the St. Louis metro, you’ll want to keep state laws in Missouri and Illinois in mind.


Missouri does not have a state statute that addresses the use of headphones while driving.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol acknowledges that “it is not illegal to drive while wearing headphones” but adds that the state “does not encourage this practice.”

Making a decision to use headphones while driving in Missouri may not be legal, but there may still be some consequences linked to it. Missouri lawmakers approved a hands-free law last year that prohibits drivers from holding their phone behind the wheel, and perhaps that may coincide with headphone use.

Another Missouri state statute calls for anyone operating a vehicle to “exercise the highest degree of care.” If a driver hypothetically used headphones while involved in a crash, they may face a misdemeanor charge.

Short answer: Is it legal to use headphones while driving in Missouri? Yes, but it’s not advisable, and drivers who do so should proceed with caution.


The most-recent statute in Illinois to address the use of headphones while driving was passed in 2019. The general conclusion from the statute, don’t do it.

Illinois Vehicle Code (Section 625 ILCS 5/12-610) explains:

No driver of a motor vehicle on the highways of this State shall wear headset receivers while driving.

Illinois Vehicle Code (Section 625 ILCS 5/12-610)

A “headset receiver” may refer to headphones, earbuds or anything similar in nature, though the term is used broadly in the Illinois Vehicle Code.

There are a few exceptions listed within the vehicle code in times where a “headset receiver” may be legal, including the use…

For safety or traffic engineering studies

By law enforcement personnel on duty

By personnel of emergency medical services

By fire service personnel

The Illinois Vehicle Code also allows for using “single-sided headset” equipment.

Penalties for using headphones while driving may vary depending on whether it coincides with a crash or another traffic violation. Most offenses within the Illinois Vehicle Code generally cap at $500.

Short answer: Is it legal to use headphones while driving in Illinois? No, in most cases. Exceptions are primarily for some traffic officials and first responders.