More than ever, you hear news stories about the effects of distracted driving. The term simply means driving while doing anything that takes your attention away from the core responsibility of safely operating a moving vehicle. It’s not a new concern. In the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, a driver could be distracted by putting on makeup in the car, talking to passengers, eating, or looking for a radio station.
But today, there’s just so much more going on in a car: more information, more entertainment choices, and more capability. And what makes it worse is that most of the new capability centers on a device that’s not even installed in the car: your wireless phone. The ability to talk to others, get text messages and email, and choose from limitless music choices can take the attention of even the most conscientious driver.
Obviously, one can see why operating a mobile device in a car takes driver distraction to a whole new level. First, it takes one hand away from the steering wheel. Second, it forces the eyes to focus on a small display and keypad. And third, it takes the mind away from the road when the driver focuses on the content being delivered through the phone, whether it’s a phone call or message.
That’s why Bluetooth has been such an effective and welcome technology in the car. The term “Bluetooth” actually comes from a 10th century Danish king, Harald Bluetooth, who was famous for uniting Scandinavia, just as the technology was designed to unite devices with a single means of sending audio, video and data over short ranges.
For us, the most popular use of Bluetooth is in devices that allow us to converse with callers on our wireless phones, without having to be distracted by handling the phone. Every phone currently built has Bluetooth technology inside it, allowing it to connect wirelessly to other Bluetooth-enabled devices. It’s not surprising today to see 70-year-olds walking around town with slick-looking earpieces, gabbing happily to friends and family. And now, Bluetooth-enabled headphones allow us to listen to music that is either stored on or streamed through our wireless phones, without the need for wires.
Inside the car, Bluetooth is implemented to create a safer, personalized experience. Bluetooth technology is built into many of the new car radios and multimedia receivers sold by your mobile electronics professional sales and installation center. Instead of holding the phone to your ear, you talk through a microphone that is installed near the top of the window for the best voice reception, and you hear callers or music through the car’s stereo speakers. The controls to answer or end calls, select music options and operate other phone functions are built into the stereo itself, using an interface that is specially designed to minimize distraction.
There are other types of in-car Bluetooth-enabled devices as well. Some portable models that are designed only for receiving phone calls clip onto the sun visor, but these often require frequent charging, and hearing callers may be difficult under certain conditions due to the small, enclosed speaker.
Other models are designed to connect to a factory-installed or aftermarket stereo system that does not have Bluetooth built in. Like adding a new car radio, these require professional installation because they are wired into the car’s electrical and audio systems. These units typically have easy-to-use controls and a large display for Caller ID and music information. Also like the radio-embedded version, they include a high-quality microphone and connect to the car’s speakers.
Is Bluetooth for you? If you want a safer, more fulfilling experience using your wireless phone in the car, then the answer is yes. There’s another reason to strongly consider a Bluetooth-enabled device for your car: State and local law enforcement are enacting rules that ban direct use of the phone (holding it to your ear or directly interfacing with it) in the car, and penalties for breaking the rules can be stiff. Whether you own or lease your car, there’s a perfect solution for you. Talk to your mobile electronics professional about the Bluetooth options to fit your car and lifestyle.