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California Earplug Law

California Earplug Law

UPDATE:  California has recently passed a bill (SB 315 from the 2004 session) to amend Vehicle Code Section 27400.  The revised law takes effect January 1, 2004 and will allow the use of foam, “non custom” earplugs by motorcyclists.  Thanks to California State Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach) (send an email thank-you to and the American Motorcyclist Association for their work on getting this law amended!

The State of California passed a law in January of 1986 (Vehicle Code – see Section 27400) that apparently prohibits motorcyclists from using over-the-counter earplugs, but allows them to use “custom earplugs or molds”.  Personally, I interpret the “custom earplugs” to cover any over-the-counter earplug, as they must be rolled up and then “custom” fitted to each individual ear.

Recently, there have been reports that police officers in California are ticketing motorcyclists who are wearing earplugs that don’t meet the letter of the law.  This is obviously ridiculous and I hope the law is challenged and changed soon.

In the meantime, here is the California regulation:

27400. No person operating any motor vehicle or bicycle shall wear any headset covering, or any earplugs in, both ears. The prohibition of this section does not apply to any of the following:

(a) Persons operating authorized emergency vehicles, as defined in Section 165.

(b) Any person engaged in the operation of either special construction equipment or equipment for use in the maintenance of any highway.

(c) Any person engaged in the operation of refuse collection equipment who is wearing a safety headset or safety earplugs.

(d) Any person wearing personal hearing protectors in the form of custom earplugs or molds that are designed to attenuate injurious noise levels. The custom plugs or molds shall be designed in a manner so as to not inhibit the wearer’s ability to hear a siren or horn from an emergency vehicle or a horn from another motor vehicle.

(e) Any person using a prosthetic device which aids the hard of hearing.

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