The basic point is that some research has indicated that using a phone whilst driving, whether hands-free or not, reduces reaction times to a level that is considered lower than those of someone under the influence of drink. The question is whether it’s the conversation per se, or the conversational method(ie the mobile phone equipment) that causes the distraction.
Surely it’s the latter that must be the bone of contention? Otherwise simply talking to fellow passengers and listening to the radio would come under the same scrutiny?
With this in mind, is it worth looking for blame or fault in the technology or its ease of application? Not really. That would be unfair to the producers of what are extremely well thought-out solutions.
Heads-up on hands-free
Personally, my belief is that the problems lie in the way we use mobiles nowadays and the fact that new technology has encouraged us to develop habitual routines.
For example, I own a Nokia 8800 Sirocco which comes complete with a very smart Bluetooth headset for hands-free application. I can answer a call by pushing a button on it. I can turn the volume up or down. I can disconnect a call. I can use voice dialling on my handset to place a call. So a few quickly touches of a button on my headset and in theory I’m all good for what is considered a hands-free operation.
But let’s backtrack. When I answer a call, I naturally look at the display before picking up. I might not want to talk to the person calling – in fact, more often than not I don’t. I run a company and don’t know who’s got my number and from where. And just like that I have fallen at the first hurdle – I need to pick up my phone, look at the name or number, decide whether I recognise it … And then when the phone is in my hand, why bother using the headset to accept or disconnect the call?
"Most of the lines we carry are impressive solutions …"
Voice dialling is another technology that’s great in principal, as it means I can say a name and my handset calls that person. But what if I want to call someone who is not on a voice tag?
Ok, so you shouldn’t use the phone in those circumstance while driving. But I’m halfway there with receiving calls on my headset, and the decision to make a call doesn’t usually involve me weighing up how much of a distraction it is to tap in a number quickly.
Technology has taken us down a particular path. In our ‘everything right now’ world, having a few phone functions available to you is just a temptation to utilise others.
There are solutions to the kind of problems I have highlighted: built-in car kits with display screens, Bluetooth-ready car stereo systems with caller display, SatNav systems that accept Bluetooth connections. But as the government find its existing restrictions harder and harder to police, it’s surely only a matter of time before solutions like those are condemned as a distraction in themselves.
The legislation around mobile phones in cars may be clear enough, and it possibly indicates what’s to come. That gives manufacturers the chance to develop products which enable users to comply with legal requirements – but then it’s up to the end user to restrict or adapt the way they use the mobile to stay compliant.
At Genuine Solutions our product range is selected to meet the requirements set by the new legislation, and most of the lines we carry are technically and ergonomically impressive in the solutions they offer. However, if the end-user doesn’t put this functionality in to place, or abuses the solution by sneaking in some handset time, or indeed is not shown at point of purchase how best to utilise the product, then we have a problem.
I feel it is up to us as an industry to educate the end user so that they can utilise these hands-free functions to the full, experiencing the optimum assistance the technology can provide.
Then we need to set about informing the user that the effective set-up and choice of solution is enough to keep them legal, as long as they don’t utilise functions that aren’t available through the accessory/solution they have bought.
Bav Majithia is the MD of Surrey based accessory distributor Genuine Solutions