U.S. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood said he will not issue a nationwide ban on using cell phones and hand-free devices while driving, as proposed recently by the National Transportation Safety Board. LaHood believes that hands-free calling is not a problem in the United States, and his stance certainly supports the auto and mobile industries. Ford, for example, equips several of its car models with Ford Sync hands-free technology. A ban on hands-free devices would likely prevent the company from selling that product. Hands-free phone calls are “not the big problem in America,” LaHood argued. “If other people want to work on hands-free, so be it.” LaHood has admitted that talking on the phone while driving is a distraction and he toyed with a nationwide ban, but never followed through with it. Individual states, however, have the power to issue statewide bans and there are currently nine states, in addition to Washington, D.C., with bans in effect. Thirty-five states currently ban texting while driving, too. The U.S. Department of Transportation is currently working on a set of safety guidelines that hands-free and in-car entertainment system manufacturers will have to follow, The Wall Street Journal said. More →
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) voted on Tuesday to recommend that all states ban the use of using cell phones while driving, whether for talking or texting. It is also recommending that states ban hands-free devices, which are typically used as a safety measure among those who do place phone calls while driving. “No call, no text, no update is worth a human life,” NTSB chairman Deborah Hersan said. “This is a difficult recommendation, but it’s the right recommendation and it’s time.” States are not required to follow the NTSB’s recommendation, The New York Times said, noting that state regulators can individually choose to implement a law or ignore the recommendation altogether. More →
A new research study published by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) suggests that cell phone use directly increases crash risk among U.S. drivers. The group studied 350 scientific papers that were published between 2000 and 2010 on highway safety. Distractions, which include cell phone use, are responsible for between 15% and 25% of all crashes, including minor fender benders all the way up to fatal accidents. The report also said that there is “no conclusive evidence on whether hands-free systems [are] less risky than hand-held use,” and that results of several tests “imply dialing a cell phone increases crash risk more for a short time while a cell phone conversation increases crash risk less for a longer time.” As you might expect, texting is an even larger risk since it requires that a user look at his or her phone for a longer period of time. “Despite all that has been written about driver distraction, there is still a lot that we do not know,” Barbara Harsha, a GHSA executive director. “Clearly, more studies need to be done addressing both the scope of the problem and how to effectively address it.”
Today Microsoft’s Larry Hyrb, also known as Major Nelson, announced that Microsoft has added Netflix support to the Xbox 360 Kinect accessory. Using Kinect, you’ll be able to browse your Netflix queue by waving your hands or speaking out loud, which means you won’t have to go searching for your Xbox 360 controller just to watch a movie. Controls include the ability browse, play, pause, fast forward and rewind, and you can perform any of those actions using your voice or gestures. Hyrb said the update is available now and that Kinect users should expect to be prompted to apply the patch the next time they launch Netflix. More →
Winner of the best cell phone accessory at CTIA this past spring, the Blueant V1 headset has been officially launched. It is listed at Amazon for $119.99 and at MobileCity Online for $99.99, with an expected availability of Aug 29th. The innovative new Bluetooth headset features a unique voice user interface that allows you to speak commands to the headset, access a verbal help system and check on the headset status. No funky LEDs to decipher or fumbling around looking for buttons, just talk to your headset and tell it what to do. Some of the supported commands include “Pair me”, “Call Back” and “Redial”. It will also speak the number of any incoming calls and ask you if you want to “Answer” or “Ignore” the call. Sweet! Now if we could just get it to do the all the talking when your boss calls about that proposal that was due yesterday…
The recently-released Aliph Jawbone 2 is definitely one of the best bluetooth headsets out right now in terms of functionality, but it’s also pricey. At $130 a clip, it probably comes in north of most other headsets you might be considering. For a limited time however, Aliph is running a promo that knocks $20 off the price of the headset for recent recipients of tickets resulting from Hands Free law violations. $110 is still a healthy sum to pay for a bluetooth headset but, well, it’s better than $130. Of course it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out that Aliph certainly doesn’t have access to traffic court databases around the country. Just enter any number with the proper amount of digits for the state you choose and you’re in. For example, NY traffic tickets contain 10 alphanumeric characters and NJ traffic tickets contain six. Trust us, we’ve gotten one or two of them in our day. So simply click through the read link and hit the “Hands Free Ticket Processor” link on the bottom right hand corner of the page. Pick a state, enter the proper number of characters and you’re good to go.