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May 05, 2008

Headset Makers Jump As More States Ban Handheld Cell Phone Use For Drivers

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor

Seizing on a chance to sell hands-free devices as two West Coast states adopt laws for drivers, a headset manufacturer today launched a Web site designed to steer residents toward a suitable product.
With the new fiscal year on July 1, California and Washington’s two state legislators will enact laws preventing cell phone use while operating motor vehicles. As that date approaches, Plantronics (News - Alert) of Santa Cruz, California, is encouraging drivers to buy a headset from them.

The company’s vice president of corporate marketing, Clay Hausmann, said the online destination, called “Plantronics City,” is a resource for drivers across the nation who could soon be affected by hands-free laws.
“The goal of the site is to provide a fun, interactive destination where visitors can educate themselves about the laws, select a headset that fits their individual needs, and learn tips and tricks for using hands-free devices while driving,” Hausmann said.
Almost 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds of the event, according to the 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and released in April 2006.
California and Washington follow a handful of states that are passing laws designed to prevent accidents by allowing drivers to use all their limbs when operating a car. The laws reflect the nation’s rapidly growing market for handheld telecommunications devices. More states are expected to follow.
Plantronics is doing everything it can to draw business to its “city.”
Consumers will listen to cruising music as a series of questions about their hands-free device use guides them toward a short list of Plantronics’ products.
The company said it conducted a survey this year that showed many people are unaware of the law or the implications of breaking it.
Different states are adopting vastly different penalties to address the problem. Some states – including Connecticut, New Jersey and New York – have laws that specifically ban handheld cell phone use. Others have more general laws that prevent drivers from doing too many things while also operating a motor vehicle.
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, drivers there will face a first-offense fine of $20, and $50 for subsequent infractions.
In Washington, transgressing residents will face an ever stiffer fine: $285 for a violation and $570 for holding a cell phone while driving through a construction zone.
In New Hampshire, if a driver causes harm to another vehicle or a pedestrian while engaged in an activity behind the wheel, he or she could face a maximum fine of $1,000 and lose his or her license for up to a year.
Michael Dinan is a TMCNet Editor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.


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