Did you know…
• Texting while driving increases your chances of being in an accident by 23%?
• Nearly one in five fatal distracted-driving crashes in 2010 reportedly involved cell phones?
• That 32,885 people were killed in the U.S. last year due to distracted driving accidents?
Distracted driving continues to be a hot-button issue not just here in the U.S., but also abroad. While owning a cell phone provides increased safety in the event of an accident, talking or texting on one while driving could put you at risk. This is especially true for independent car rental customers. Driving an unfamiliar vehicle is difficult enough, never mind trying to talk on a phone or answer an email at the same time!
As of January 1, 35 states have banned text messaging while driving. Nine states have further banned the use of handheld cell phones entirely. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Jordin Sparks and Justin Bieber support these laws, and the U.S. Department of Transportation has made distracted driving one of their main focuses. The message is clear: cell phones aren't safe behind the wheel.
If you're planning an independent car rental vacation, do yourself and the drivers around you a favor – hang up the phone! Or, at the very least, invest in a hands-free device to help alleviate distractions.
Bluetooth – The Hands-Free Solution
Hands-free legislation is now in effect in most Canadian provinces, as well as throughout the United States. While each geographical area may have additional regulations, the bottom-line is clear: using handheld cell phones and other electronic devices when driving is unsafe and strictly prohibited. Independent car rental drivers who are caught talking, texting, emailing or dialing could face a hefty fine… or worse.
If you simply cannot be without your phone while commuting, you may want to consider the use of a hands-free device with one-touch activation. Bluetooth headsets are a great example. Hands-free devices like Bluetooth-enabled headsets, car decks, in-car stereos, and GPS units make it easier to avoid common in-car distractions.
Which Device is Right For You?
If you do a lot of independent car rental traveling, you may wish to invest in one or more of the following Bluetooth devices:
• Car Kit: Car kits include Bluetooth speakers that attach to the visor of your car. Once synced with your cellular phone, these speakers allow you to talk and listen to phone calls without having to wear a headset. Car kits are a great investment for independent car rental travelers who do a lot of their talking in the car alone.
• Headsets: Bluetooth headsets vary in quality from basic to premium models. The major difference between the various types is sound quality. Premium Bluetooth headsets cost more, but that's because they offer an unparalleled sound experience. Some even include noise-cancelling technology, which helps to reduce background noise.
• Car Decks: Car deck adaptors are a great option for drivers who are easily distracted by the buttons and knobs of a rental car's stereo. Once hooked up to your car rental stereo, this adaptor will allow you to answer income calls hands-free by automatically switching from music mode to call mode when your cell phone rings. The adaptor uses the car's speakers in order to broadcast the call. Once the call is over, the adaptor will automatically switch back to music mode.
Bluetooth Isn't the Best Solution
According to a study performed by Dr. David Schwebel, professor of psychology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, hands-free devices do not reduce distractions and improve driver safety. The study, which involved 110 college students, found that students who used hands-free devices were just as likely to get into an accident as students who used handheld electronics.
Not surprisingly, the National Transportation Board in the United States has used evidence from this and similar studies to call for a full ban on cell phone use when driving, including a ban on the use of hands-free devices and wireless headsets. The recommendation is the strictest to date; however, it is currently non-binding, which means that states are not required to adopt it.
The next time your phone rings when you're on the road, remember – distractions can be deadly. Pull over to answer the call, or simply let it go to voicemail. No call is ever worth losing your life over.