Android Resolutions

You're going to be using your smartphone more in 2012 than you did in 2011. And likely more the year after that, and the year after that. It's just the way of the world, folks. That makes this resolution all the more important. And while we're all guilty of breaking it, there's just no excuse.

Resolve to be hands-free in the car

It's that simple. We know, we know. We're all important. We've all got calls coming in. We've got text messages to read. But we've got to be safer in the car. And it's actually pretty easy to do.

  • If you have built-in Bluetooth, use it. Car manufacturers are offering more and more trim packages with built-in Bluetooth connectivity, and it's about the easiest and safest way to use your phone in spurts while keeping your eyes on the road on your hands-on the wheel. My wife bought a car in 2011, and I sold her on a higher trim package than she initially wanted because it had Bluetooth. (Should have gotten a commission on that.) "It's really a safety feature," I told her. And it is pretty simple. Not perfect -- dialing is a pain -- but it's absolutely better than having to reach into a purse or pocket to grab the phone. 
  • If you don't have built-in Bluetooth, get it. Even if you don't have Bluetooth built into your car, there some great aftermarket options. I've been using a speakerphone for years (which also streams audio into my car stereo over FM), and there are a number of great speakerphone choices. Another new one is OnStar FMV. For $300 (available from Best Buy), you get a replacement rear-view mirror that in addition to serving as a Bluetooth speakerphone also ties you into the OnStar service. Or if you have to, suck it up and use a Bluetooth headset.
  • Apps can help. Voice-to-text has been built into Android for some time now, and there are a number of apps that will read incoming text messages aloud, and send them for you as well, so you don't have to be holding your phone or, worse, typing. And if you really have a problem putting the phone down (or know of a new driver who does), there are apps that will effectively shut the phone down while the vehicle's in motion. It's not a perfect system, but it's an option. Safer driving has been a big initiative for Sprint, and the U.S. carrier has compiled a list of apps like Vlingo, ZoomSafer and its own Sprint Drive First app that can get you started.
  • Just put the phone down. This is the best thing you can do. Wait till you're out of the car, then get back to work.

We don't mean to get too preachy about this one. But smartphones aren't going anywhere. We're going to be using them more in our daily lives, not less. And with music streaming and navigation getting better all the time, it only makes sense that we'll be using our phones in our cars more and more. But we all have a duty to keep ourselves, our loved ones -- and each other -- safe on the roads.

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Reader comments

Android Resolutions: Resolve to be hands-free in the car


Wholeheartedly agree. Hands-free is the way to go if you're going to use a cell phone in a car. With bluetooth technology so easily available, be it portable headset or integrated, there is no excuse. There are people out there who cannot even drive properly using both hands, let alone with one on the cell phone and one on the steering wheel! I have to wonder if it would make sense for cars to have bluetooth integration as a standard feature instead of an option.

Your solution if you can't afford Bluetooth came in the box with your phone.

Use the wired earbuds that came with the phone. They have a Answer-and-Hangup button on the cord and work very well, better than bluetooth in most cases.

You would also be surprised how well the speaker phone works on some phones, even in noisy environments.

Talking on the phone is still a distraction, but no where near the distraction of texting.

Actually I have the droid charge and a Jabra cruiser2, one of those clip on bluetooth speaker things. It used to drop my calls but now with the gingerbread update, it works just fine. If you're not going to be changing your phone, that's an option, but I still need to find a way to actually voice dial calls without touching my phone.

Totally agree, either go hands free or stop. Laws are going to be enforced sooner or later depending on where you live. 70% of the time when I see someone doing something stupid on the road, they have a phone to their ear. It just makes scene to be smarter in this area, even if you are one that can multitask well, their are many others that can't and have no business doing it...

Anyone looking for a good hands free app check out JARVIS. Its great. Reads out texts and lets you know who is calling. It responds to your voice commands. Spend the $2 and get the pro version. The developer is a college kid.

Umm.....All studied show that hands free is not safer. Its the same as talking on the phone normally. Just saying.

Correct - but studies have also shown that talking to a passenger is equally as dangerous as talking on a hands free unit. So the question arises - do we ban passengers also? If not (of course not) then it's hard to be bent out of shape about someone talking on a hands free unit.

Not so much.

A 2004 University of Utah simulation study that compared passenger and cell-phone conversations concluded that the driver performs better when conversing with a passenger because the traffic and driving task become part of the conversation. Drivers holding conversations on cell phones were four times more likely to miss the highway exit than those with passengers, and drivers conversing with passengers showed no statistically significant difference from lone drivers in the simulator. A study led by Andrew Parkes at the Transport Research Laboratory, also with a driving simulator, concluded that hands-free phone conversations impair driving performance more than other common in-vehicle distractions such as passenger conversations.

In short, only ONE meta-data study indicated that talking to passengers is dangerous. And that study did no actual data collection they simply tried to re-purpose other people's data.

Neither is talking to anyone else in the car, putting make up, shaving, eating, etc. At least with hands free, both your hands are on the steering wheel and you don't have to fumble with a phone if you need to react quickly.

Amen Brother.
Too Many Idiots out there that can barely Drive in total silience.. Much less blasting music and txting / chatting at the same time.. I have noticed the Galaxy Nexus Owners are especially bad.. You see them always banging on their phones while driving trying to get them to work...

Blazing (Safely) @ 1,300 mhz on my Droid Charge.. Drooling Beause CES is just 6 DAYS AWAY! Finally, 1,800-2,000 mhz 28nm Quad-Core Phones here we come! My $800.00 is ready to spend come April-May on REAL 2012 Technology~!

Not just cell phone use, but any distraction:
Talking on a cell phone
Sending text messages
Reaching for a moving object inside the vehicle
Looking at an object or event outside of the vehicle
Reading a book
Eating food
Applying makeup or shaving

And NHTSA has stated using a hands-free device can reduce distraction but does not eliminate it

And one not ever mentioned; using a two-way radio; especially when driving at high speeds.

Friend of mine lost his 5 year old daughter when their car was hit by a girl messing with her cell phone. The case is heading to trial but the most the offender can be get would be one year.

Distracted driving needs to be penalized like drunk driving, its just as bad.

Put it down, its just not worth it. They need to pass the law and the cell phone companies can work on better hands free and less distracting technology.

This almost feels like a government sponsored It is true people are spending less time with their eyes on the road then on their smartphone's screen. Then again were are our eyes if we are watching those who are engrossed in their smartphone? Happy New Year Phil!

If you just HAVE to use your phone, as Phil stated, there are some very good apps available. StartTalking works great, for instance, and will even read back messages that come in when your phone is turned off. And for those who have the need to answer a call, use their device's nav, etc., a Cell Buckle may serve your needs. It mounts to steering wheels, motorcycle handlebars, baby carriages, even shopping carts. It's very easy to mount and adjusts to just about any phone or GPS device. I gave it as Christmas gift and use mine whenever I drive.

There is absolutely NO REASON/EXCUSE for driving and talking with one hand. And texters are just too stupid for anyone's good, and usually end up killing themselves...or worse, someone else.

Would anybody be shocked if we found out some congressman was getting paid from a BT company for passing these stupid ass laws.

>"And while we're all guilty of breaking it, there's just no excuse."

Speak for yourself, Phil.... I always use hands-free in my car with a bluetooth-to-car connection. As a driver, I never touch or look at the phone while the car is moving.

I do agree with what you are saying, though.

either my phone stays on my belt while i'm in the car, or if i'm using it for google music or google nav, it stays ont he nav music gets set to the music i want to hear, or shuffle, before the car even gets put in gear...if you call me and i dont answer, leave me a message, and i'll get back to you as soon as i'm not behind the wheel of a 2000 pound chunk of steel...if you dont feel that you're imporatant enough to leave a message, you definitely aint important enough to be calling and expecting me to pick up

I use a Bluetooth or just don't answer the phone. If it is important they will call back or leave a voice mail so I can call them back when I get a chance. I live in Nevada where a new law took effect on New years day. First offense $50.00 plus court costs=$112.00. Second offense with court costs=$192.00. Third offense with court costs $352.00. And starting with the second offense points are taken from your Drivers License.

i have actually been using a headphone jack to tape cassette in my truck for years. whether i am listening to music or using the gps, when someone calls i hit answer and it comes through my speakers in my truck. i have the standard radio, cd, tape combo from dealer. it works and no one will steal it. been doing it since the palm treo first came out. no one complains about the audio on my end. i also mount the phone on the dash with proclipsusa, it's expensive i guess, but worth it in my opinion. hands free is the way to go.

Phil I am disappointed! Don't forget that the stereo in most cars can be replaced and you can add Bluetooth in with a new stereo. Much better sound quality all around. And also you can even integrate bluetooth into lots of newer cars that did not have it!

I have been trying very hard to break my bad habits in this area, but despite my best efforts, I can't get the technology to cooperate.

I recently got a new 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT with the factory stereo. It has Bluetooth, and I can even stream music from my phone through the stereo. I've tried several apps to help me go totally hands-free, but nothing has worked for me. The apps I've tried on my Google Nexus 5 include: Sonalight Text by Voice, SMS My Car and Me and Dragon Mobile Assistant. I even tried the Sprint Drive First app on my old HTC Evo 3D, but I don't have Sprint anymore (and that app didn't work very well either).

I want to be able to send and receive text messages (preferably through Hangouts but not crucial), Facebook messenger chat, and Hangouts instant messages by voice. It would be nice to tweet and post to Facebook by voice, but this is not crucial. I want to be able to use my car stereo to navigate through my music collection (preferably through Google Play Music but not crucial) -- not only from track to track but from album folder to album folder, and I want to be able to listen to the radio or any of my music and have it interrupted when I get a message.

What can I do? Would something like Pioneer AppRadio make all of this possible? Is there a cheaper solution?