In NSW it is not expressly illegal to wear headphones while operating a motor vehicle.

Music to your ears, right?

Not quite. There is a bit of a ‘catch all’ road rule which could see the wearing of headphones as being problematic and in some circumstances illegal. This rule being NSW Road Rule 197(1) essentially make something illegal if it is a distraction that causes a driver to not have proper control of a vehicle.

This rule generally is invoked if your driving causes an accident or if you are witnessed to be driving erratically.

So, would a Police Officer charge you for wearing headphones while driving in these circumstances? Well, that beats me!

Police have discretionary power with respect to this offence, meaning that they alone would decide if you wearing headphones was deemed to be a distraction and therefore, if it would be deemed an offence. In some circumstances, you may be able to fight any charges laid in Court, but the Police will have the discretionary power to charge you initially.

If you were charged under this road rule for not having proper control of the car, you’d be looking at three demerits and a $481 fine. The Court could impose higher penalties, should the matter be referred there.

In addition to the possible fines, you face if you are charged with this offence, insurance companies may not pay on a claim arising from an accident. This is because there are usually clauses in their PDS noting if you are negligent or knowingly dangerous in your driving, then your claim may be denied. This is ultimately a matter for the insurance companies to decide.

Generally, it is considered that the practice of wearing headphones is unsafe, as it inhibits your ability to hear emergency sirens and horns used by other drivers as well as generally dulling your awareness of your surroundings. Plus, generally speaking, in order to use headphones, you need to connect to your mobile phone. Mobile phone use while driving carries many possible offences as well.

As the law is unclear and there is a lot of discretionary powers, the best position in NSW lends to being one where you err on the side of caution and refrain from using headphones while you drive.

If you need some sound legal advice, contact Everingham Solomons, because Helping You is Our Business.

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