The State of Maryland recently passed news laws that make talking or texting on your cell phone without the use of a hands-free device a primary offense. These new Maryland cell phone driving laws took effect on October 1, meaning that now you can be pulled over if a police officer sees you texting or holding your phone and talking while driving. If you are caught, you face fines of between $40 and $500 and you may have points added to your license which will result in increased prices for auto insurance.
It’s worth taking these new laws seriously. Police around the State of Maryland have stepped up enforcement, and within the first day the law came into effect, an incredible 122 citations and 84 warnings were issued in sting operations around the State. In addition to paying fines and getting points, you run the real risk of seriously injuring or even killing other drivers or pedestrians if you text or talk while driving – and the penalties for that have increased as well. Consider the case of Elizabeth Haley Meyers, a 20 year old woman from Anne Arundel County who has been indicted on criminal charges and now faces 10 years in jail for killing a motorcyclist while she was texting and driving. This is the first case of its kind under Maryland’s new distracted driving law, but there are sure to be many more to follow.
The best solution to all of this is of course to simply put down your phone and refrain from texting or talking while driving. The reality, however, is that more than 2/3 of drivers reported talking on a handheld cell phone while driving in just the past month, so it seems that for many people, cutting the cord is a difficult thing to do. And simply putting your phone on speaker is no longer good enough. If you are holding it in your hand, you can get a citation.
The good news is that if you MUST talk or text while driving, there are now a number of devices and technologies that can help you do so in a way that is legal.
The simplest way to talk and drive and stay within the law is to use a bluetooth device. Bluetooth headsets have been around for a while, and the good news is that the technology is better than ever, with improved designs, stronger performance, better battery life, and more compelling features than you’d find just a couple of years ago. And with prices starting at just $30, this is a an easy and inexpensive solution!
Voice-activated in-car technologies
Designed to allow drivers to issue a command without being distracted, voice activation technology is becoming an increasingly common feature in new cars hitting the market. Most voice recognition software on the market today only have about 50 to 60 voice commands, with the notable exception of the Ford Sync which has 10,000. Voice command for cars is different than voice command for mobile phones and for computers because a driver can use the feature to look for nearby restaurants, gas stations, driving directions, road conditions, and the location of a nearby hotel.
Voice-activated technologies are not just for luxury vehicles. From the BMW 7-series sedan (which allows drivers to dictate e-mails or text messages) to the Chevrolet Sonic (which allows drivers to compose texts verbally on an iPhone connected in the vehicle), more than half of all new cars will integrate some type of voice recognition by 2019.
There are a number of smart phone apps designed to help drivers remain productive andhands free while driving. One of the most popular is Dragon Dictation, an iPhone voice texting app that allows users to send text or email messages through voice recognition technology. This app allows the users to text, call, access and launch apps, open files, create and edit email documents, search for information, find directions and much more – all in a voice controlled manner.
The following apps will all read your emails to you while you drive and allow you to reply with your voice or use a customizable auto-response. They connect with any Bluetooth technology and are compatible with most mobile carriers.
Other apps are designed specifically to allow hands-free texting. They include:
There’s plenty of information online about all of these, so be sure to read reviews and choose the right one for your needs.
The Bottom Line
Despite all the new gadgets and apps designed to make it easy to talk and text hands-free, its worth repeating that the best – and safest – solution is to simply put your phone down and focus on driving!
Image credit: ampak / 123RF Stock Photo