Texting and talking on cellphones while driving is a known hazard, and against the law in most states, unless it's hands-free—even though many of us still do it. For Californians, the law just got tougher: As of 2017, the rule isn't just hands-free, it's hands-off. So what does this mean for drivers, and what can we do to make our hands-off life a little easier?
California's new hands-off law makes it illegal to touch your phone at all while driving—even if you're not using it. The phone has to be mounted, and the only touching allowed is a single touch or swipe, presumably to unlock the phone and see whatever updates or alerts have arrived, or to answer a phone call.
What can you, as a driver, do to comply with the law? First, you'll need a good phone mount. Anyone who has flirted with the idea of phone mounts knows that, while seemingly simple, there are actually very few mounts that actually hold your particular phone securely, that don't look like a science project on your dash, and that can adapt to multiple phones—a necessity for households that share cars but don't have identical phones.
Fortunately, Instamotor is on top of the matter. These are the gadgets you'll want to help you stay safe while keeping the connectivity you need on the go.
These inexpensive mounts are available in a variety of attachment methods, from adhesive dash mounts to windshield suction cups, to adjustable arm mounts, and more. The best part of the Magic Mount is that it uses strong magnets to securely hold any phone to its surface. We've road-tested these mounts ourselves over thousands of miles and find them to be plenty secure even over rough roads. Despite the firm grip, the Magic Mount is typically small and unobtrusive, so it won't look like a small robot is trying to steal your car when it's not in use.
The one downside, at least for some users, is that the Magic Mount requires an adhesive metal backing place be installed on the phone or phone case to provide the magnet something to hold on to. It's a minor inconvenience, as the backing plates are small, thin, and adhere very strongly, adding minimal bulk to the phone and staying in place no matter what the road throws at you.
Because of its universal nature, any phone can be stuck to the mount as long as it has the backing plate so multiple-phone and multiple-driver households will find this to be a very versatile solution.
The Scosche Magic Mount is also inexpensive, despite its build quality and function. You can find the Magic Mount on Amazon and other retailers for under $15.
For the budget buyer who's more interested in being legal than in being fancy, there's the classic vent-clip mount, like the one made by [Aukey, which can be purchased for as little as $10 (sometimes even less) online=(https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00WU48DGM/).
The Aukey's strengths are its simplicity: it simply clips onto your car's air vent and uses a clamping function to hold any phone. That simplicity can also be its weakness, however, as some cars' vents don't have the right shape louvers to allow attachment of a clip-type mount, and the clamping nature of the mount itself can interfere with the side-mounted buttons on some phones, making it hard to secure the phone without unintentionally taking screenshots, hitting the volume buttons, or turning the phone completely off.
Clamp-style mounts can also be tough to use, requiring two hands—one to stretch the mount open, and the other to place the phone. Really strong clamp mounts might need three hands for some users, as they can be difficult to open wide enough with just one hand.
Nevertheless, the low cost, universal adaptability, and no need for a magnetic plate on your phone might be just the thing to keep you from getting a ticket.
Do you have a CD slot in your stereo? Do you ever use it? If you're no longer toting around a binder full of CDs, you can re-purpose that slot to hold your phone. That's right, a number of companies produce phone mounts that are secured in the CD slot. One example is the aptly named CD Slot Phone Holder from Koomus, which retails for around $20 online.
In addition to making use of something that's likely just wasted space on your dash, the CD slot holder puts your phone right up where it needs to be, near the line of sight, so you don't have to take your eyes so far off the road to see who's calling or to take the call. It also means you don't have to stick adhesives to your dash, drill holes in it, or block part of your view out the windshield with suction-cup mounts.
One potential downside of the CD slot-type mount is that it can block other functions of the car. For example, many cars place the CD slot and head unit directly below the navigation and infotainment screen, which means your phone would get in the way. Obviously, that's a no-go. But, if your car's dash layout lets you use one, it can be a secure and effective way to mount your phone
For some drivers, dash and windshield mounts just won't work. Whether it's because those locations are hard to reach for smaller drivers, or because the layout of your car simply doesn't lend itself to such mounts, there's yet another option: the cup holder. If you can afford to give up one of your precious drink stations, there are a number of options for mounting your phone using the cupholder as the place to secure the base.
These mounts typically use an arm (often of adjustable length) with pivots and swivels to align your phone however you like. Likewise, this type of mount is available with both magnetic and clamp-type phone mounting, meaning it's possible to adapt them to any phone. While highly adjustable and very secure in their mounting, cup-holder-type mounts do mean your phone is more or less tied to the location of your cup holders. That will work in many cars, but it won't work at all for some, especially sports cars with manual transmissions, where even having a drink in the cup holder can interfere with shifting.
If you really don't like the idea of having to pull your phone out of your pocket or purse every time you get into the car to secure it to your dash or windshield, however, and you don't have Bluetooth hands-free calling integrated into your car's audio system, there is another class of gadgets that will serve you well: the two-way Bluetooth in-car speakerphone.
These devices typically clip to your sun visor, though some mount to other locations, and act like a traditional office speakerphone, except that they're linked to your cell by Bluetooth, and they're in your car. This means even cars without integrated Bluetooth can have the comfort and convenience of hands-free calling—without ever touching your phone at all.
There are literally hundreds of options on the market, but one of the top-rated models, as well as one of the more affordable options, is the Motorola Roadster Pro, which you can find online at prices between $65 and $90, typically.
The Roadster Pro gets high ratings for its sound quality, including the audio you're sending to the other end of the line, thanks to its four noise-canceling microphones. Like many other Bluetooth in-car speakerphones, the Roadster Pro is battery powered, and that is its one weakness: the battery life can be on the shorter end of the spectrum, lasting about 12-15 hours of talk time.
Other quality options in the Bluetooth in-car speakerphone arena include the Jabra Freeway (about $100 online), the Motorola Roadster 2 (about $50 online), and the Parrot Minikit+ (also about $50 online).
These five items are by no means the full story when it comes to in-car gadgets to help deal with the new California hands-free / hands-off law, but they're among the best you'll find, and there's something for nearly everyone to find the solution that works for them. Whether you find your answer on this list or not, however, be sure to do something to ensure you're within the law, because it's not just a ticket you're risking if you don't—it's your life, and everyone else's.
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