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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Jun 22, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


A few years ago, my brother was rear-ended by a distracted driver talking on her cell phone. Ordinarily, this would be a rather unremarkable event, but he happened to be a lawmaker in California at the time. The accident prompted him to introduce legislation to study the impact of wireless telephone use while driving. The California Highway Patrol subsequently issued its widely publicized report finding that cell phone use is a major contributing factor to driver-distracted traffic collisions. The findings led to the passage of legislation banning hand-held cell phone use while driving in California, effective July 1, 2008. The effect of the new law is that cell phones can be used with a hands-free device. Whether or not hands-free cell phone use is less distracting than hand-held use is the subject of some debate. Most of the studies suggest that even hands-free cell phone use while driving can be quite distracting, but perhaps less so than hand-held. In any event, the new law is set, and there essentially two ways that California adult drivers can legally drive while operating a cell phone: Wired hands-free unit - This is essentially a single combination microphone and earphone unit (earphones or headphones covering both ears are illegal) that is wired to your cell phone. The wire can be cumbersome, not to mention distracting while trying to operate a motor vehicle. Bluetooth systems - Many of the newer cell phones have Bluetooth capability, which provides for wireless communication through a combination microphone and earphone/speaker system. The lack of wires makes for a less cumbersome solution for legal cell phone use while driving. Why Bluetooth? Bluetooth is the name given to a type of wireless system initially developed by Ericsson that provides a way for different devices to communicate with each other by sending data via a secure, low-cost short-range radio frequency. The name comes from a 10th-century Danish king, Harald Blatand (Bluetooth) who unified Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (hence, the connection with the system). Legend has it that Blatand had an affinity for teeth-staining blueberries. The wireless system that is Bluetooth is distinguished from Wi-Fi, in that it's a far simpler and cheaper system. In addition, Bluetooth has a range that is limited to 30 feet. To have two Bluetooth-enabled devices to work requires a relatively hassle-free "handshaking" process for establishing the connection. Most Bluetooth-enabled devices operate on Bluetooth 2.0, which has improved compatibility, security and connection speed over earlier versions of Bluetooth (e.g., Versions 1.0, 1.B, 1.1 and 1.2). Bluetooth-Equipped Vehicles In 2003, certain Lexus and Toyota Prius models began appearing with Bluetooth systems, wherein your Bluetooth enabled cell phones can be operated through the vehicle's audio and navigation systems. Since then, Bluetooth capability has appeared on many of the newer vehicles. These are, by far, the most convenient and hassle-free way towards hands-free operation in the car. There are systems that can be purchased that will integrate your vehicle's audio system to work with Bluetooth. The most sophisticated of these will automatically lower the volume during in-coming calls and provide instantaneous hand-shaking to your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone. These units require professional installation, however. For more instantaneous compliance with the new hands-free laws, read onward. Next Page: The Reviews 

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