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Monday, July 03, 2006

If You Text, Don't Drive

Qatar has recently banned the use of mobile phones while driving. A public campaign was made by the traffic department by distributing free earphones to motorists along with a leaflet of the new law and hazards of using a mobile phone while driving. I preferred a more sophisticated handsfree gadget.
Does that sound familiar? It should because it's nothing more than an improvisation of "If you drink, don't drive." They say that driving while talking on your cellphone / mobile phone is just as dangerous as drunk driving.
With only one hand on the steering wheel and the other one on the phone, it's rather tricky to steer and shift transmission. Even if you're driving an automatic, steering into tight corners is still more challenging with just one hand. This much I know because I used to do it. Three years ago with manual transmission car and now with an automatic. I never liked those wired earphones because they always get tangled. I find them quite messy to use and it's just so inconvenient to put them on and off whenever you get on and off the car. At one time, I tried connecting an FM modulator (will write a separate blog about this) to my phone to act as a speaker phone. It worked but it picked up all the noise around me and so conversations did not sounded well so I gave up on it. My car dealer offered put an option in my car's dashboard to make it bluetooth enabled so that when I'm inside with my phone, I automatically speak on the speakerphone. But the installation costs twice the price of my phone so I didn't took the offer. Then the earlier bluetooth headsets were a little heavy and again, costs either as much or more than the phone itself.

SonyEricsson W550i paired with a Plantronics Explorer 320 bluetooth headset.

But gadgets are only expensive when the technology put into them are cutting edge. the same goes for the bluetooth headset. As the bluetooth technology starts to age, lighter and cheaper models started to become available. What I've got here is a Plantronics Explorer 320 which I bought for QR 199 (US$ 54.52 or PHP 2,786). That is a mid-price model. My wife was able to buy a cheaper one which is half the price of the Plantronics I got. There are even cheaper models from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola & Samsung (of course they have ultra-expensive models too) so you could say that I splurged a little on this one.

For some reason, I have no idea what, the bluetooth headset is not as widely available in the Philippines as it is here in Qatar. I can understand why no one would wear one on the street because that's advertising to thieves that you're carrying a pricey phone but the motorists would find it very convenient to use - as I have. When the phone rings, it's just one press of a button (on phone or the one on the headset) and you may say "hello" - handsfree. No one would think you're crazy for talking to yourself because everyone can see that you've got a cool gadget on your ear.
The bluetooth headset in the box.
Perhaps it's my training in construction sites but safety awareness has become a habit for me and I've brought that habit even when driving. The bluetooth headset is perhaps the safest solution to talking while driving. No more tangled wires and I can now have both of my hands on the steering wheel while talk to my caller at the same time. It doesn't matter if I forget to take it off when I get off the car because it's great to use driving or not. And it looks cool!
But that still doesn't solve the problem of texting while driving, does it?


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