Tag Archive | "Bluetooth"

Hands-Free Car Calls On The Rise


Just over ten years after hand-held mobiles were banned at the wheel, there are now demands to ban hands-free kits as well. This stems from a survey finding that reveals that almost half (45%) of drivers admit to chatting when driving.

While the use of hand-held phones by drivers has thankfully dropped (although there are still fools doing it), hands-free use has risen, likely to be linked to the mistaken belief (according to some) that it is a safe alternative. This is one point of view. Another is that it is no different to chatting with the person next to you.

The thinking is that for the past ten years, the lack of a total ban has left many drivers unaware that using a hands-free mobile at the wheel is just as risky as using a hand-held – at least according to those who want to ban it.

It is argued that it is the distraction of the conversation that causes the danger. Studies have apparently shown the risk of being in a crash that causes injury is increased four times for drivers on both hand-held and hands-free phones because reactions are fifty percent slower than under normal conditions.

More obviously, the survey also found that texting at the wheel is a widespread menace, with three in 10 of all drivers admitting sending or reading messages while driving, and an even higher proportion of young drivers (age 18-24) – more than four in 10 – doing so. Smartphone apps are said to be an additional threat, with one in eight drivers using them at the wheel, up from less than one in 10 in 2006.

It is always a worry when this sort of debate goes on. Many will argue the civil liberties case. Others will say that talking hands-free is no different to holding a conversation with other people in the car. Of course, using a handheld phone is stupid – no one can honestly say they can perform two dexterous functions at once. So the question drivers have to ask themselves is how far can they let what they can or can’t do in a car be called into question.

After all – car makers have been fitting highly sophisticated Bluetooth gadgetry into cars for ages now. It is technology that works. How can this now be banned when connectivity plays such a big part in our motoring lives. It’s over to you.

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Do Not Touch That Button


How much do you want other people to make decisions for you in the interests of road safety? Do you regard yourself to be a good driver, capable of making up your own mind as circumstances dictate? At the start of our driving lives we are obliged to take a test of our competence which would appear to indicate that society thinks we are safe to be let out on our own in a motor.

Increasingly, it seems that our cars are going to make decisions for us. The latest wheeze is from Ford with their – and this isn’t made up – Driver Workload Estimator System. Car makers seem to be increasingly pre-occupied with finding ways to take our matters into their hands. Ford’s new technology will apparently monitor several factors, the purpose being to decide whether or not you should receive a phone call.

For example: if the accelerator is being pressed, the indicators are on or there is movement on the steering wheel, any incoming calls will be blocked. So even with Bluetooth or a hands-free kit, if you are thought to be effecting a manoeuvre, it will be assumed that you are too busy to press a button. If the car is travelling in a straight line at a constant speed then the system will put the call through. And you thought some secretaries were tough to get past.

There’s something perverse going on here. The Ford system is being tested in America where authorities have called for a ban on all in-car distractions. Presumably that must include music or radio. In the UK, although it’s illegal to use a hand-held mobile, there are no rules governing hands-free. Yet. Why bother going to the trouble of inventing stuff and putting it in our cars, if, further down the road, health and safety officials are going to ban it?

Road safety obviously must have its place and statistics show that accident figures have been going up after ten years of decline. Driving, if not done with absolute care is a potentially dangerous occupation. The thing is, we all know this. Even the legendary Damon Hill has spoken up for a blanket 55mph speed limit in the UK on the basis, he believes, that most drivers aren’t capable above that speed yet, not so many years ago, we were free to drive our cars – without many of the safety aids we take for granted today – without interference. It is clear that the days of driving for pleasure are long gone. A car is now just an adjunct of your social life and like other areas of your social life is set to be controlled by other people whether you like it or not.

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