Retrevo's Guide to Hands-free Driving.
By Andrew Eisner
On July 1st, 2008, California will join many other states that restrict cell phone use while driving. California's new law says that if you’re over 18, you can only talk and drive "hands-free." If you’re under 18, you can’t talk on a cell phone at all while driving. If you’re caught, the first offense will cost you $20 but won't add points to your license. The law is intended to save lives and make the roads safer however, you have to wonder how many additional accidents will result from adults and teenagers resorting to texting since texting is still legal while driving.
Here are some recommendations for going hands-free in your car:
1. Buy a Car With a Bluetooth Connection.
Many cars both foreign and domestic offer Bluetooth connectivity. Usually the sound comes through the car speakers (interrupting the stereo when a call takes place) while microphones placed in the headliner or dashboard pick up your voice. Currently over 30 brands of cars offer Bluetooth including Toyota, Lexus, Audi, Dodge and Land Rover. Many manufacturers make Bluetooth available as an option like Chrysler's UConnect or Audi's HandsFreeLink.
|Toyota Prius||Chrysler's UConnect||Land Rover Range Rover HSE|
||A lot of systems allow you to download your contact list and then use voice commands to dial the number by saying a name. Many high end models like those from Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar incorporate Bluetooth into their navigation systems that also work with voice commands. Microsoft SYNC available in many American made cars like Ford and Buick uses text to speech technology to read text messages to you and voice recognition that allows you to make calls and control your music players.|
2. Buy a Bluetooth Car Kit
If you're not in the market for a new car and are happy with your non-Bluetooth enabled car then maybe you should consider an aftermarket car kit. Some require professional installation, while others you can install yourself with a plug that goes to your cigarette lighter. You can get a basic Bluetooth car kit like the Motorola B 89170N T305 hands-free speaker phone for around $50. A more advanced one like the Nokia CK-7W Advanced Car Kit comes with a small remote that you can Velcro someplace close to the steering wheel. It sells for around $125. The Motorola HF850 Deluxe Bluetooth Car Kit costs a little over $200 and gets high marks for sound quality, ease of use and design. The Gold Lantern VisorTalk clips onto your visor, has a large display that shows the caller ID sells for around $75.
|Motorola B 89170N T305||Nokia CK-7W||Motorola HF850||Gold Lantern VisorTalk|
3. Buy a New Car Stereo with Bluetooth
After market car stereo manufacturers are starting to offer Bluetooth capabilities. Pioneer has several stereos that feature Bluetooth. At the top end Pioneer is about to ship three Bluetooth compatible models in their AVIC line; The AVIC-F700BT, AVIC-900BT, and the AVIC-F90BT with an MSRP of $850, $1,100, and $1,200 respectively. All three offer a big 5.8 inch touchscreen along with voice recognition that can even control a connected iPod. If you can't afford to spend that much money, Pioneer offers the FH-P8000BT, FH-800BT, and DEH-P7000BT, all in the $300 range. They include hands-free calling along with HD radio and iPod capability.
|Pioneer AVIC-F700BT||Pioneer FH-P8000BT|
4. Buy a Bluetooth enabled GPS
Bluetooth is becoming more common in GPS devices or, should we say, Personal Navigation Devices. Using a GPS with your Bluetooth phone uses the GPS device's built in microphone and speaker for hands-free calling. You can also use it to call one of the Points of Interest (POI) like a restaurant or hotel. The popular nuvi 360 has Bluetooth as well as the newer nuvi 760 and nuvi 880. For a complete list of Garmin Bluetooth GPS check out the section on Garmin's web site covering their devices and Bluetooth.
|Garmin nuvi 360||Garmin nuvi 760||Garmin nuvi 880|
|TomTom Go 920||TomTom Go 930||Magellan Maestro 4040|
5. Buy a Bluetooth Headset
Bluetooth headsets are everywhere these days. They're cheap and easy to use however they can often be uncomfortable to wear for long periods and audio performance can vary widely. One of the most highly rated headsets comes from Aliph who produces the Jawbone and uses military grade noise canceling technology to produce very good quality calls. Aliph has a new version of the Jawbone called appropriately “The New Jawbone,” which is available now for about $130. Plantronics has been in the telephone headset business for a long time and produces some very highly rated Bluetooth headsets like the stylish Discovery 925. Stereo capability came to Bluetooth via the A2DP Standard so you can now use stereo Bluetooth headsets with stereo Bluetooth enabled media players. Plantronics has a new stereo headset called Voyager 855 which is getting good reviews and costs around $150.
|Aliph New Jawbone||Plantronics Discovery 925||Plantronics Voyager 855|
6. Buy a Wired Headset
|For about ten bucks you can walk out of any Radio Shack with a wired headset that includes an earpiece and a microphone. For a few dollars more you'll get a volume and mute switch on the cord, and for a few dollars more than that you can get a headset with a head band and a boom mic.|
7. Listen to the Radio and Don't Answer the Phone
This could turn out to be the best bet for your physical safety as well as your mental well being. Ask youself, "is this call really that important?" If the answer is "maybe not," then why not turn on and tune in, the radio, that is.
You can get more details on the California law here.
Here's a list of every country and state with hands-free laws.
Don't forget to check out Retrevo whenever you're looking for any kind of information on the latest gear and gadgets like GPS, Cell Phones, HDTV, Digital Cameras and more. Retrevo has reviews and manuals for all popular consumer electronics products including those from Sony, Garmin, Apple and Samsung.