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Look Ma - No hands!

Updated on September 17, 2008

California's New Hands-Free Cell Phone Law

My teeth are blue and my hands are free, and there is something stuck in my ear, but I don't think it makes me a safer driver. On July 1, 2008 the "hands-free" phone law went into effect in California. No longer are we allowed to use cell phones while driving, unless one calls using a hands-free device. I had never really paid much attention before, but after the law went into effect I looked over my phone and sure enough... it has no hands (the clock in my phone is a digital one, not analog), but I guess that is not what they were talking about. I tried to drive hands-free, but it seems rather more dangerous than driving with hands on the wheel. My toothpaste is blue, but I guess that is not what is meant by Blue Tooth technology. This new thing stuck in my ear is uncomfortable and makes me look like an android, but at least people don't take as much notice when I am talking to myself.

I keep wondering, was this really a good idea? Did we really need a law like this? I, like many others, have gotten some self-justifying joy grumbling about drivers who drive slowly and erratically while holding a phone to their head. "There ought to be a law against it", was probably the battle cry as the California legislature wrote up this law against talking on a hand held phone. The law was passed in spite of all the studies out there that say talking on a hands free phone distracts a driver in exactly the same percentage as talking on a handheld phone. I suppose the idea was that it is better to have both of your hands on the wheel and be distracted by the call than to not have both of your hands off the wheel. I doubt it makes any difference.

When I was a dumb teenager I "mastered" the art of driving a 5 speed manual transmission, while eating a Macho Combo Burrito and a soda. Tell me that was not distracting! Maybe what we need is a law that covers all kinds of common sense things that we should not be doing while driving! What about women putting on makeup on the freeway? What about men shaving as they drive? What about those who let their dogs and cats climb in their lap as they cruise down the freeway? The list of stupid things to distract you in your car could be almost endless. Having a law telling us that we need to go buy a new gadget to stick in our ears so we can use our phones does not seem like much of a solution.

The inadequacy of this incomplete law is shown in some of the loop holes people have seen in it already. There is no provision (yet) that covers TEXT MESSAGING while driving! Apparently the law allows you to dial a number on the hand held keypad as long as you use the hands free device for the voice call. Nothing in the law precludes someone from typing a text message on the keypad as they drive! Tell me that is not MORE distracting that a voice call! I don't know how anyone could even do that, let alone why they would do that! And yet I have seen drivers typing a note to their friends as they roll along in stop and go traffic! Drivers under the age of 18 can't use a cell phone at all while driving (hands free or not), but who says an 18 or 19 year old is less distracted than a 16 or 17 year old?

All I know is that a lot of companies are making a lot of money selling these little blue tooth gadgets. I waited almost two weeks before buying my state-mandated ear decoration. There was of course a run on these expensive little devices in the last week of June. I am sure that Radio Shack and every other electronics store made out like bandits selling out the cheaper models forcing some customers to spend a few more bucks on the higher end models. If you still have not bought your headset, you can probably find a local electronics store which is by now overstocked with these little metal roaches to hang in your ear.


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    • Glenn Frank profile image

      Glenn Frank 8 years ago from Southern California

      Yeah, two days ago I watched some idiot focused on his texting device on the 22 freeway. It was stop and go traffic. He was stopped, head down, texting away as the cars in front of him moved 300 feet or more down the lane and he stopped traffic. Then he started going, looking up and looking down. Spending more time looking DOWN I think. I guess he had to finish his message before he could look up the whole time he was moving!

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

      I heard that texting might be even mor dangerous than drinking and driving. A texter can have eyes off the road for 5 seconds-- you know how far you can go in that amount of time?

    • Glenn Frank profile image

      Glenn Frank 8 years ago from Southern California

      Another Note... The state finally added an amendment to this law that fills the loophole so that people can't "legally" use TEXT MESSAGING" while driving (something that they kinda forgot to include in the original law - probably because it was a common sense thing). But now that this law has been in effect for over a year... I find that the number of people holding phones to their head and those I see TEXTING on the freeway while driving has probably gone back up to what it was before the law! Well... another useless law on the books. Apparently, police can't or don't pull people over for this law, but like the seat belt laws... if you get pulled over for something else you can be cited for this violation too.

    • Glenn Frank profile image

      Glenn Frank 9 years ago from Southern California

      Just a side note... the bluetooth thing I bought was a piece of junk. (what should I expect from a cheap one) ... so I took it back to the store. Not sure if I will get another one. Maybe I will just not use my phone in the car and refuse to be assimilated into the borg.

    • nisanth mn profile image

      nisanth mn 9 years ago from india

      beautifully written. the comments adds doubt!

    • Glenn Frank profile image

      Glenn Frank 9 years ago from Southern California

      I got the cheapest one I could find. It might actualy be useful for me to wear when I am riding my bike since I can't hear my phone ring when I am on the bike. but otherwise... I am going to just leave it in the car I think.

    • Carl Frank profile image

      Carl Frank 9 years ago from Southern California

      I resented the idea that I was essentially being ordered by THE MAN to buy some new gadget (the bluetooth), so on the relatively rare occasions that I use my phone while driving, I'm just using the headphone/mic jack that I already had with my phone. Maybe it makes me look like a dinosaur to not be "wireless", but that might be better than looking like a Borg. Resistance is not futile.

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 9 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Well, I don't know. It seems like no phones while driving for all ages does make the most sense, but then someone will wonder if talking to passengers in the car with you is just as distracting as talking on the phone.

      The blue teeth are strange, if I saw that in the car passing me I am sure I would be distracted.