New laws banning the use of handheld communication devices while driving take effect in California and Washington on July 1. At that time, California and Washington will join over 20 states and dozens of municipalities that have enacted laws requiring hands-free communication devices be used while driving.
Under both laws (SB 5037 in WA and SB 1613 in CA) drivers violating the laws will receive a ticket and be fined. The fines range between $20 and $175 in California; while in Washington, the fine is a flat $124.
As hands-free legislation spreads across the nation, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is working to educate the public on how Bluetooth technology can be used in the car for hands-free compliance.
"With more and more states and individual cities passing hands-free laws, it's getting difficult for drivers to know where the laws are in effect," says Michael Foley, Ph.D., executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. "The simplest way to comply is to go wireless with Bluetooth technology. Many new vehicles come with Bluetooth technology built in. It's easy and cost effective to buy a headset that connects to your mobile phone, install an aftermarket Bluetooth car kit, or simply clip a Bluetooth speakerphone to the vehicle's visor."
The July 1 hands-free laws will impact 23 million licensed drivers in California and 4.6 million drivers in Washington. In addition, visitors driving in the areas with hands-free laws will also be required to comply with handheld bans. The trend only promises to grow as every state in the U.S. has considered some form of ban on the use of handheld wireless devices while driving.
"Lawmakers at the state, federal and local levels are examining a wide variety of issues related to driver focus," according to Matt Sundeen, transportation expert for the National Council of State Legislatures. "However, the most common concern is the potential distraction caused by communication devices in the car."
According to the National Council of State Legislatures, 73 percent of drivers use their cell phone in the car. Bluetooth technology provides the best solution to meet the needs of all drivers for adhering to these new laws.
Several manufacturers make devices that allow people hands-free use of cell phones in their cars. Here are just a few the Bluetooth SIG recommended in a news release.
AFTERMARKET HANDS-FREE CAR KIT -- Parrot 3200 LS COLOR: A professionally installed hands-free Bluetooth car kit with color LCD, and voice recognition and noise cancellation features. Contacts are stored in the memory of the Parrot 3200 LS-COLOR. The voice recognition feature enables numbers to be dialed automatically by stating the contact's name i.e. "Call John."
HEADSET -- Plantronics Discovery 925 Bluetooth Earpiece: The Plantronics Discovery 925 Bluetooth earpiece blends an elegantly simple VFrame design with crisp sound quality. The headset includes easy set-up, noise control technology and a carrying case with rechargeable battery.
IN-VEHICLE TECHNOLOGY -- Ford SYNC Powered by Microsoft: A fully integrated, voice-activated in car communication and entertainment system for mobile phones and digital music players. SYNC technology enables drivers to operate Bluetooth mobile phones with simple voice commands.
SPEAKERPHONE -- Motorola MOTOROKR T505: Take calls hands-free and enjoy music via the T505's speaker or through the car speakers. The T505 connects Bluetooth enabled phones to the car stereo without wires or installation. With the touch of a button, StationFinder finds and announces where to tune the FM radio to hear calls through the car stereo. Simply clip, tune and go.