Hands-free cell phone law starts July 1
June 27, 2008
Violation could mean fines up to $181
Local drivers who have not set up their mobile phones for hands-free operation while driving a car have until Tuesday, July 1 to act, or they need to pull over every time they make or receive a call.
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Local drivers who have not set up their mobile phones for hands-free operation while driving a car have until Tuesday, July 1 to act, or they need to pull over every time they make or receive a call. Drivers under 18 are banned from using a cell phone or pager while driving, hands free or not. For drivers over the age of 18 several Sonoma Valley businesses offer a variety of devices that will meet the letter of the law. If your phone already has a speaker/microphone feature, simply using it will suffice. Ralph Mann of Wireless Mann in Sonoma says that his personal choice is the wireless visor-mounted device, which he says comes in clear and strong and works with "Bluetooth" compatible devices. Another Bluetooth-compatible option is a one-piece device that fits over one ear. "Just be sure to buy one that is of good quality," Mann stated. "The cheaper devices are only worth what you pay for them." His favorite visor model sells for $89, while the ear piece version is $69. For customers who have an older, non-Bluetooth phone, he sells ear buds that can be connected via a wire to a cell phone. They sell for $15 to $19. Although Mann offers Verizon Wireless phone service, the hands-free devices are compatible with most Bluetooth phones.
Chris Foy, general manager of Wireless Group in Sonoma Marketplace, says that the new Bluetooth hands-free devices are being sold this week as fast as he can unpack the boxes. The most popular are the portable "car kit" visor-mounts, including one that actually tells drivers who is calling them (if their name is in the phone book an owner can download into the phone). The fancier kits start at $100 and go up, but Foy also sells the less expensive "wired" ear buds for those people with older phones. Wireless Group also offers cell phone service via Sprint, Nextel, Verizon and Metro PCS. Sonoma Phoneman Joe Contreras has a good supply of wire and wireless devices from under $20 to more than $100 depending on the make and model. He says that the favorites are the visor-mounted Bluetooth compatible models. He added that most people who have purchased a cell phone within the last two years have Bluetooth compatible phones.
Radio Shack in Sonoma offers six different hands free devices from $9.95 for a wire-connected ear bud up to a $139 visor-mounted wireless device that works through your car radio speakers.
Headsets that cover both ears also work and can be purchased on the Web and at some stores, but it is illegal to drive with both ears covered with a headset.
In any case, fines for holding a cell phone up to you ear and talking while driving start at $93 for the first offense and move to $181 for each additional offense.