As of July 1, 2008 it is illegal in California to drive while talking on a cell phone without the use of a hands-free headset or hands-free speaker phone (texting, ironically, is not illegal, but that is a topic for another day).
A few weeks ago I was headed somewhere in the car and was late. Ordinarily I would just pick up the phone and call, even though I wasn't very far away, since I didn't want the person to worry. But I couldn't do that; I needed to use my hands-free set.
Some people have spiffy wireless devices that they wear in the car to speak on their cell phones. I don't. I have the old wired earpiece that came with my phone.
I fished through my purse as I drove, trying to find the "hands-free" cord. Searching through my purse is a two-handed affair. I waited until I was at a stoplight. When I found the cord and pulled it out it was tangled up on itself.
I should really get a rubber band for this, I thought.
No, another voice said, You should really get a wireless headset.
No money, the first voice thought.
Traffic started moving and I tried to get the hands-free cord plugged into my phone. It's not like the charger, where you can just aim in the general direction of the hole and it'll go in. No. The hands-free headset cord must be precisely positioned. I don't know how I did that without crashing, but I did. I'm a talented person.
The next step in making a call from my hands-free headset (which is much safer than holding the phone while you drive, by the way) was to put the earpiece in my ear. I dislike headphones that go in my ears because they don't like to stay there, but I had no choice in the matter. I gouged the soft fuzzy foam into my ear and somehow made it stay.
Then came the clip. I've never really figured out where the clip is supposed to go. If I want the microphone to be near my mouth, ideally the clip would clip onto my nose or my glasses or something. Hey, that might actually be a good idea. Hmm... Anyway, I usually clip it onto my shirt or dress or whatever, opposite the ear in which the earpiece sits (or opposite the ear from which the earpiece falls).
The earpiece was in. The clip was attached. The hands-free headset was ready to go. All I had to do was dial. But in the amount of time it had taken me to put it all together, I'd arrived at my destination.
Now, I agree that driving while talking on the cell phone is dangerous. I also agree, however, that driving while shaving, reading the newspaper, listening to the radio, talking to friends, eating, or transporting children is equally dangerous. In fact, I would argue that the most distracted I have ever been as a driver is when I was trying to deal with two small boys in the back seat. That was far more distracting than any phone call I've taken while driving, but I doubt they'll be banning children from the car anytime soon.
The issue at hand is not actually talking on the cell phone, it's keeping driving as the main focus. If it's not a good time to take a call, don't answer the phone. If you need to stop talking for a minute to pay closer attention to driving, stop talking. But I understand that not everybody has the willpower to do this.
So what is the point of this blog? It is to say that I now plug in my phone before starting to drive. It's safer that way.