When a new state law takes effect Jan. 1 banning the use of handheld mobile devices by drivers, many may find themselves searching for ways to stay connected behind the wheel.
But there are options for those without the latest technological gadgets to abide by the law while still talking on the phone.
Maurizio Tamburello of Verizon Wireless said in addition to Bluetooth earpieces, drivers also can choose from a number of visor-mounted devices that act as a hands-free speaker phone. Tamburello said the latest Bluetooth products include better sound quality than earlier products.
Noise-cancelling technology improves call sound for the person on the other end of the phone.
“That’s key to driving handsfree,” he said.
Many devices also respond to voice commands.
Tamburello said he uses the Jabra Freeway, a visor-mounted unit that allows him to speak a command to make a call or send a text without even touching an earpiece.
“Great sound comes out of them,” he said of the visor-mounted devices, which range in price from $60 to $130.
Considering the price of a ticket for violating the new cellphone law, that could be seen as a bargain.
A first-time offender caught using a handheld device after Jan. 1 will encounter a $75 fine, but no moving violation. A second offense comes with a $100 fine and a moving violation. Three-time lawbreakers will get a $125 fine. After that, each ticket will carry a fine of $150, plus any court costs should a driver wish to contest the charge.
“The safest thing is just not to use your phone while you’re driving,” Tamburello said.
Verizon is one of four major wireless companies to join forces in an effort to deter texting and driving, which already is illegal in Illinois and 41 states, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The ItCanWait initiative, which also involves Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile, challenges drivers to take a pledge against texting behind the wheel.
There also are Smartphone applications to help drivers stay off the phone. AT&T DriveMode, available on Android and BlackBerry devices, is a mobile application that sends an automatic reply to any incoming text while the phone’s owner is driving.
Michael Holub, chief of police in La Grange, uses such an app when he is driving.
“The phone senses the movement and turns the app on automatically,” he said.
Illinois’ new law makes it the 13th state to ban handheld use by drivers, and it closes some gaps left by previous restrictions on cellphone use. Currently, drivers 18 and younger are prohibited from using cellphones at all while driving, whether handsfree or not. It also is illegal to use a handheld device in school and construction zones, as well as within 500 feet of an emergency scene, where photos and video using a wireless device also are illegal. AAA states it also is illegal in Illinois to drive using headphones or two-sided earpieces.
More laws are in the works at the state level, including a provision that would presume reckless driving in fatal accidents involving use of a cell phone in a construction or school zone.