Hands-Free Phone Use While Driving

Distracted driving is dangerous.  This Nugget will discuss the approaches that you can use as various states adopt hands-free phone use while driving.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that every day, nine people are killed in crashes that involve a distracted driver.  The CDC reports three distractions that are associated with this bad habit:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.

The Senior Tech Club wants you to be safe.  We do not want you to be distracted as you drive.  But we will also review the essence of the law in many states and some recommendations that will help you keep your eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and mind on your driving.

What is allowed?

My home state of Minnesota as just passed a hands-free law to go into affect August 1, 2019.  And although other states my have different approaches.  Currently 19 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.

What does the MN law allow?  (HandsFreeMN.org)

In MN The law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone.


How to Go Hands-Free

These recommendations are based on the recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety with additions from the Senior Tech Club.

  1. Don’t use your phone when you drive. Put your phone in the glove compartment or trunk or backseat or turn on a do-not-disturb app and enjoy the drive. See Nugget #11 Do Not Disturb While Driving
  2. Use a single earphone that has the microphone, and you are hands-free. Have earphones in both ears is  illegal in many states.  If you are using the Apple ear buds that may have come with our iPhone, use the right ear bud that has the microphone, center button and volume controls.  You can answer calls by pressing the center buttum.  You can activate Siri by pressing and holding the center button. See Apple iPhone Manual – Use Apple EarPods for a complete description.
  3. Pair your phone to your current car or truck if your vehicle supports Bluetooth.  Instructions for this will vary between vehicles.  The setup on the iPhone is easy using Settings, Bluetooth.  Once connected you can use your vehicle’s voice or steering wheel control to answer or make calls.  Or you can use Siri.  The Senior Tech Club has a comprehensive guide to using Siri in Recipe #012 Getting to Know Siri.

  4. Buy an auxiliary cable and connect your phone’s earphone jack to your car’s AUX jack. You can operate your phone by Siri and  listen through your car’s audio system. Auxiliary cables can be purchased for less than $5.

  5. Buy a holder to clip your phone to the dash. You can use it in a voice-activated or single-touch mode. Clips can be simple and cheap or complicated. Make sure you get one that holds your phone securely. Prices range from less than $5 to $50.  I’ve purchased phone holders from Amazon. Be prepared for 20,000 different products.  As an alternative my students in class have recommended that you might go to your local auto parts store like AutoZone or O’Reilly Auto Part where you can get recommendations and actually try out the holder.  

  6. Buy a Bluetooth speaker or earphone to pair with your phone. There are many after-market choices for both, all of which let you go hands-free. Prices are generally in the $10 to $50 range.

  7. Develop your Siri skills.  Nearly all of the approaches described in this guide will allow you to use Siri to make calls.  The standard command is “Hey Siri Call (one of your contacts names).  See Recipe # 11 Getting to Know Siri
  8. The ultimate iPhone-Vehicle experience is using Apple CarPlay.  (iPhone User Guide – Control CarPlay with Siri or your car’s built-in controls)  CarPlay will use apps from your iPhone like Phone, Maps, Music and Podcasts and display them on your car’s control screen.  You can make calls either from the touch control screen or using Siri.

Most important – Be Safe.  Do not be a distracted driver!