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10 Ways to Beat the New Hands-Free Laws

How to Stay Safe and Look Good

On July 1, 2008, drivers in California and Washington will join those in states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in forced compliance with hands-free legislation that stipulates fines from $20 to $124 for driving while holding a cell phone. Other states are considering placing such rules on the books.

The laws state that drivers must use a headset or speakerphone while talking on the phone, but in recent years, headsets have acquired a nasty stigma. Depending on your point of view, Bluetooth headset wearers might either look like cyborgs, telemarketers or simply jerks.

If you already wear one, don’t take this personally. It’s just that some people have been holding out for as long as possible to avoid looking like unstable people that talk to themselves.

But the fact is that all cell phone-owner drivers are going to have to face reality at some point and buy a hands-free device. It’s not just the law — it makes safety sense, too. Under these new laws, dialing, looking to see who is calling, and pressing a button to answer or make a call are permissible by law, but holding an actual conversation with phone to ear is not. Devices with voice dialing or text-to-speech abilities can eliminate even these unsafe driving behaviors.

We’ve picked out ten Bluetooth devices that aim to minimize the obtrusive ugliness associated with this type of gadget: five we have tested, while the other five will likely be available soon. We’ve evaluated them for battery life, sound quality, and most importantly, comfort. If you’ve spotted an appealing hands-free device that we didn’t mention, please let us know in the comments below.