TechKnow Challenge 

Hands Free

By Cindy Rott

          Those of us born back when the only phone in the house was attached to the wall and had a rotary dial now find ourselves searching for a hands-free option for our cell phones.  Recently passed legislation in Maryland that requires hands-free operation of cell phones in cars has sent many people scrambling to comply, even though it is only a secondary offense.  (You have to be busted for something else, before you can be fined for yakking while driving.)

The choices are simple:

  1. Stop talking while in the car,
  2. Purchase a new cell phone that comes with a hands-free option. 
  3. Buy an adaptor that allows the phone to be heard over the radio.
  4. Purchase an ear set.

          This new law should make our streets a little safer.  I can’t count the number of times that I have seen distracted drivers doing something dangerous.  Whenever I am driving down the highway and have to brake because someone is driving erratically or driving too slowly, I can guarantee you they are on a cell phone.  Last year I barely escaped being run over while standing on a sidewalk waiting for the light to change.  After the driver swerved to avoid me, I noticed she was talking on a cell phone, the swerving caused her to flip her car and land in a ditch.  Thankfully no one was seriously hurt, but it was a close call for me and an expensive call for that distracted driver.  

          Go into any cell phone store and they will be happy to sell you any number of products that are in compliance and that are compatible with your particular phone. Or, and this is big, it really is safer not to talk on the phone while driving, even hands-free is distracting.  Remember just a few short years ago, cell phones could only be seen in a James Bond movie, now we can’t leave the house without them.  

          A built-in speaker phone certainly is the easiest option if your phone has it, but many complain of poor sound quality, which still might be OK for short phone calls.

          Another choice is a hands-free set that clips on your phone and broadcasts the conversation over the radio, or over its built-in speaker.   Some models can be permanently installed in your car and some can be carried in your pocket.  Make sure to check for compatibility with your particular phone before purchasing one of these kits. This is a good idea if you don’t like things hanging off your ears. The biggest negative is if there are other people in your car, they will be a part of your conversation. Sound quality can vary greatly, so check the reviews of the product you are looking at. 

          An ear set is a very popular option. Many people can be seen walking down the street with their Bluetooth attached to their ear.  The Bluetooth is a wireless, hands-free option, often with a single ear piece.  Most newer phones are Bluetooth-enabled. A high-quality one can be purchased for less than $100. I received one for Christmas and have a difficult time getting it on my ear. It is also heavy and I don’t like to leave it on. I am better served with an earbud connected by a wire, which is preferred because it does not need to be charged, but it does literally tie me to my cell phone. (Ensure that if you choose the wired head set that it has the correct plug for your particular phone.)  My husband, however, loves his Bluetooth and keeps it on for his entire long commute.  The choice is up to you and if you choose to continue using your cell while driving, compliance is going to be the rule.


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