Help for Distracted Driving Law – In effect as of July 23, 2017

Washington’s new distracted driver law has gone into effect as of July 23rd. Although this law does not forbid cell phone use during driving it does make it hands free, meaning you cannot hold the phone in your hand while driving or even stopped in traffic. The new law forbids handheld uses, including composing or reading any kind of message, picture or data  and permits “minimal use of a finger” to activate an app or device. Drivers may still use a cell phone/smartphone mounted in a dashboard cradle for navigation use or voice activated phone calls. Holding of the phone while in traffic is a primary offense, which means you can be pulled over for it with a starting fine of $135.  (complete information for the bill can be found here). 

So what are some items we can use in our car to still make our phones useful?

First of all, we need to get that cellphone mounted to something so we are not looking down to cupholders or between our legs when a call comes in or while using navigation apps. I recently purchased a magnetic mount by Caw Car Accessories on Amazon and have found it extremely useful. This universal car mount for phones consists of a steel ball which is mounted to your dash, a magnetic base and a plate attached to the back of your phone or case which connects magnetically to the base. The magnetic base easily rotates about the steel ball for good positioning but stays firmly in position when driving. The steel ball is affixed to your dash with 3M double sided tape for a secure connection. I have used this device for a couple of weeks now it has performed very well. The phone has never dropped from the magnetic connection even over the rough streets we find here in Spokane.  The phone, however, is easily removed when you want it to be.  The only issue I ran into was of my own doing, where I damaged the 3M tape for mounting and it came loose from the dash in the hot sun. Just as a precaution I purchased a roll of 3M Scotch double sided extreme mounting tape capable of holding up to 30 pounds and holding up against 100 degree heat. I only used an inch of it but I’m sure I’ll use the rest for some other application (like mounting that rear threshold skid plate to the back of my wife’s car we purchased two years ago). After several days stationary in the hot sun on a camping trip, the steel ball did not budge. Here is a short video to demonstrate:

For those who may need a different style of phone mount for either windshield or dash, you may want to check out the Mpow car mount for cell phones. This mount has a soft suction cup that can be attached to a smooth surface on the dash or on the windshield. As can be seen, setting the phone in the mount would take a little more effort than a magnetic mount but would be very secure within the mount as it has side and bottom protrusions to keep the phone in place. This mount has received 5 stars from 73% of 500 users, which is something that I look for on Amazon purchases.

So hopefully we have the phone mounted now, but what about being able to make and receive phone calls? As i briefly talked about in the video, if you do not have bluetooth built into your car, Apple’s Airpods have proven excellent for the purpose. As of July 24th, BestBuy says they will ship the Airpods by August 1st. Airpods easily pair to an iPhone by merely opening their charging case and clicking connect on your iPhone. After the initial pairing, the Airpods will connect to your phone just by placing at least one of them in your ear. The controls for use of the Airpods are very simplistic as their is only one, the double tap. Double tapping the Airpod while in your ear will do one of two thing, either activate Siri or stop/start music or a phone call. The function of the double tap is controlled under Settings – Bluetooth –  and click the information button to the right of the”Airpod Name”. Once there you can change the name of the Airpods and choose whether the function of the double tap is Siri or Play/Pause. Keep in mind, the Airpods are not exclusively for iPhones. They can easily pair to most any phone by opening the case, holding down the button on the back of the case until a small LED blinks on the inside of the case followed by going to the bluetooth settings in the phone and clicking pair. The function of the double tap will only be Play/Pause, of course.

If the in ear bluetooth device is not for you, perhaps a visor type bluetooth device would be best for you. Both the top names Motorola and Jabra only get 5 stars from approximately 50% of the users that have given reviews. I think it is a pretty tough market to compete against newer cars with bluetooth built in or buying a new stereo for your car that has it built in. The Motorola Roadster 2 Tz710 and Jabra Freeway Bluetooth In-Car Speakerphone have received approximately the same rating from reviewers but the Jabra costs about $30 more at $71. 

One last option would add a few more wires to your car’s cabin but it has a really good rating on Amazon at a 70% 5 star rating of 5430 reviewers and that is the Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth Hands-Free Car Kit for Cars with Aux Input Jack. This device requires that your stereo be in auxiliary mode but is capable of playing audio from your phone as well as making and receiving phone calls. Here is a good demo for the device.

So there are a few options for you. If you want to save yourself some trouble with your local police while driving, keep that phone out of your hand.
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