The California state law Vehicle Code 27400 VC (mirror) states that:

A person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not wear a headset covering, earplugs in, or earphones covering, resting on, or inserted in, both ears.

What does "resting on" mean? Does that mean touching? Covering more than x % of the ear? etc.

  • But I presume the deaf are issued licenses ... I'd bet that without a case defining it, it's up to traffic police discretion. Just hanging from the neck might trigger the right cop.
    – 608
    Jul 17 '19 at 5:26
  • Imagine you have headphones that are smaller than your ears. When you wear them, they are resting on your ears. I’d just keep the headphones far away from my ears. A cop will mostly care whether the sound of your headphones impair your driving.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 17 '19 at 10:44

I believe it refers to the fact that some earphones are built in such away that they hook over the top of the ear (a common feature in earphones designed for fitness as those without the hook may become loose) or a feature where the speaker can swing away from the ear for better listening to a person. Additionally, it is entirely possible to not have earphones covering you ear and still perfectly hear the sound from the device due to it's general proximity to the ear drum.

The reason for this ban is because there are several audio cues that are required for safely driving a vehicle. Earphones may prevent you from hearing a siren of an emergency vehicle, the beep of a horn from a car that you are about to accidentally merge into, or the distinct beeping of a reversing truck to warn people in it's driver's blind spot.

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