Every day of the week, fools can be observed driving and holding their mobile phones to their ears and talking on them. It is one of the most easily seen illegal activities and it is no wonder that so many motorists are booked for doing this. In 2014, the penalty for this offence in NSW was $298 plus 3 demerit points, but these fines are being increased all the time. In 2014 in Victoria, this offence attracts a whopping $433 penalty.
Look at the above photo. How easy is it for police to spot this driver holding a mobile phone to his ear? Why on earth do so many drivers think that they cannot be seen doing this? In fact it is the most visible of offences and police have a field day every day booking dopes like the fellow in the photo who made himself a prime target for a very expensive penalty.
According to figures released by NSW Police, over 40,000 motorists were fined in 2009 for using their mobile phones while driving. Many motorists who were caught committing this offence were booked again and some were booked a third time. One really has to wonder about the dumb idiots who get booked for this offence and go and commit it again and again. The tally for the past five years prior to 2009 reached more than 134,000 fines. In 2012, Victoria Police fined 59,000 people for talking on mobile phones while driving.
With the Draconian penalties regarding driving while talking on mobile phones, to hold a mobile phone to one's ear while driving is the height of stupidity because one can be seen doing this from a great distance, especially by police. Cops staked out with binoculars can spot idiots driving and holding their phones from a massive distance and take photos of them for evidence and radio more cops down the road to pull them over and book them - and that is exactly what they do.
Motorists who are booked doing this have literally no legal defence, because all police have to do to prove their case is to produce a time and date-stamped photo and the mobile phone log of the driver that shows that they were actually receiving or making a phone call at the exact time of the booking. Not only that, motorists talking on their mobile phones are more preoccupied by their conversations to notice those police cars next to them until it is too late and they are booked. So why would anybody risk getting fined for this, when it is so easily avoided?
It is interesting to note that all the propaganda that the government has trotted out to justify the laws making holding mobile phones while driving illegal had one purpose, to give police another avenue to raise revenue. For at least a decade, people drove around chatting on their mobile phones without a problem. In those years, the accident and fatality rate fell. A study from US Carnegie-Mellon University and the London School of Economics showed that there is no correlation between driving while holding a mobile phone and accident rates. That comprehensive study is on the Downloads page - Bhargava Pathania Study - Talking on mobile phones while driving does not cause accidents.
So why do our state governments completely ignore such conclusive research and impose laws that penalise motorists for doing something that is not dangerous at all? It's not hard to figure it out. It's just about raising revenue from fines. If anybody tells you that driving while holding a mobile phone and talking on it is dangerous, just shove that Bhargava Pathania Study at them and tell them to get an education. Nevertheless, while we have governments that make such restrictive laws in order to rip us off, we have to keep them out of our pockets by using technology.
Every mobile phone has a headphone facility so that motorists can plug in a wired earphone with microphone and use the phone hands-free while driving. However, this can be rather inconvenient and cumbersome. There is a far more elegant solution.
Virtually all modern mobile phones have that wonderful short-range wireless communications protocol called Bluetooth. This allows cordless earphones and hands-free car kits to be paired to mobile phones, thus eliminating the need for wired earphones. For motorists, this is a terrific way to be able to have hands-free phone communications with the convenience of not having wires dangling all over the place.
Motorists who are frequently in and out of their vehicles, such as courier drivers, should use Bluetooth earphones that are with them all day wherever they go, so that they can talk on the phone while driving or out of their vans when making deliveries. Top-class Bluetooth earphones have a range of around 10 metres or more, so even if a courier leaves his phone in his van to take a parcel to the front door of a house or business, chances are that he will still be able to receive calls if he is reasonably close.
For motorists who generally stay inside their cars from departure to destination, a Bluetooth hands-free car kit is probably the best and most convenient solution. Some of the best Bluetooth car kits operate with voice commands, so that motorists don't even have to touch them, but merely command them to switch on, receive calls and even make calls. Some good Bluetooth devices can be voice-commanded through their full range of functions without laying a finger on them.
It is a good idea to fit a commercially made phone cradle to one's car. Having one's mobile phone in such a cradle means that the driver can legally touch and operate it while driving, especially if the phone is being used for GPS. Some top-line cradles, such as the excellent Cllic-On cradles made by Swedish company Brodit, have charging facilities so that the driver's phone is always being charged when placed in the cradle. If the motorist makes it a habit to always place his mobile phone in the cradle, then he will not be tempted to hold it in his hand while driving and get booked for this.
Many modern cars, even fairly inexpensive vehicles, offer Bluetooth integrated into their audio systems either as a standard feature or an option. This offers automatic connection to mobile phones whenever the vehicle is being driven or even when the ignition is on. The driver does not even have to do anything to connect the phone to the system. Phone controls are usually on the steering wheel, allowing motorists to answer calls without touching their mobile phones and just speaking in a normal voice.
Apart from the safety and convenience aspect, the nice thing about integrated Bluetooth is that when a phone call is being received, the system automatically mutes the audio, such as radio or CD, so that the call can be taken without any background interference. The same happens when a phone call is being made from the car. Pressing the phone button on the steering wheel immediately mutes the sound system and starts the dialling routine.
Some cars offer amazing Bluetooth features. For instance, the 2013 Mazda 6 Luxury Sports Hatch not only has fully integrated Bluetooth in its Bose sound system and satellite navigation panel, it also has voice recognition that controls the GPS, audio system and the Bluetooth phone. The owner can upload phone numbers from his mobile phone and attach them to voice commands, so that phone calls to those numbers can be made completely hands-free and completely legally while driving.
The driver of a Mazda 6 Luxury Sports Hatch can merely press the phone button on the steering wheel and say, "Call Harry Smith Work" or "Call Harry Smith Home" or "Call Harry Smith Mobile" and if Harry Smith's numbers have been uploaded to the system and voice tags assigned to them, the Bluetooth voice recognition system will confirm that the driver wants to call Harry Smith at the selected phone location and will initiate the call, all without the driver taking his hands off the steering wheel.
If you are going to buy a new car, it is highly recommended that you get the model with integrated Bluetooth, or have it fitted if it is an option. You will never be booked for using a hand-held mobile phone and the sheer convenience of being able to just make and receive hands-free calls completely legally and safely while driving at any speed is really worth whatever extra the system costs.
A great solution for vehicles that do not have integrated Bluetooth is a retrofitted Bluetooth kit. This literally acts the same as fully integrated Bluetooth. The brains of the device is hooked up to the car's audio system and mutes it whenever a call is made or received. A small microphone is fitted to a convenient spot in the car, such as near the rear-vision mirror and the small controller unit can be mounted anywhere.
There are a few manufacturers of such retrofit Bluetooth kits, but some of the better ones are made by Parrot. Some models come with a tiny controller unit and there are fancy models with screens that will access applications from a mobile phone. All of these devices are voice-activated, so there is no need to connect or touch a mobile phone when using them.
Many aftermarket car stereo units offer integrated Bluetooth, so that is a good option to take if you want to improve your vehicle's sound system and get integrated Bluetooth at the same time. Some of these units offer literally every amenity, including AM and FM radio, DAB+ digital radio, USB and audio input sockets and even remote controls. They are not very expensive and may be a better option than just retrofitting an integrated Bluetooth hands-free unit.
With the current laws in Australia barring even touching a mobile phone while driving, Bluetooth kits, whether portable, retrofitted or integrated into a car's audio system allow motorists to use their phones legally without even taking them out of their pockets or when they are placed in phone cradles.
With inexpensive Bluetooth earphones or hands-free car kits available, anybody who is booked for talking on a mobile phone held to their ear is an utter fool. Why would any sane person risk being fined hundreds of dollars and acquire 3 or 4 demerit points, when they can buy a Bluetooth earphone or hands-free car kit for a quarter of the price of the fine? In fact in March 2014, the excellent BlueAnt Q3 Platinum voice-command Bluetooth earphone was available on the Internet at a measly $65. Why on earth would any motorist risk a fine that may be over $400 when he can use a device costing $65 that will completely eliminate the risk of being booked?
If motorists don't want to spend $65 for a premium Bluetooth earphone or $80 for a premium hands-free car kit such as the BlueAnt range, there are many cheaper devices. For instance, the Reject Shop chain was selling Bluetooth earphones for around $20 and the supermarket chain Aldi sells the Vivid brand hands-free car kit for a measly $30. There is no motorist that cannot afford to purchase one of these Bluetooth solutions.
Buying a Bluetooth earphone or hands-free car kit is a one-off purchase as well, so acquiring and using such a device when driving will not only make it easier to chat on the phone, but will save being booked and handing hard-earned money to the government for no good reason. No motorist should be without a Bluetooth earphone or hands-free car kit and anybody who gets booked for talking on a mobile phone up to their ear while driving is really stupid.