- Car Safety & Safe Driving
Look Ma - No hands!
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.